A Complete List of Every Social VR Space and Virtual World Platform I Have Written About on The RyanSchultz.com Blog

Virtual Universe 28 Apr 2018
A Scene from Virtual Universe

(Note: I will be keeping this list up-to-date as I cover both old and new platforms, as a sort of index to my website.)

Well, I figure this is pretty much the canonical listing of social VR spaces/virtual worlds. Have I missed any? It’s like Pokémon, “gotta catch ’em all”…if you have heard of one that I haven’t covered yet, please let me know in the comments, thanks!

I have not covered TheWaveVR, which seems very cool, but as a Canadian, I cannot access the service (probably due to copyright issues with the music; this is why we don’t have the Pandora streaming music service in Canada, for example). I’m going to have to leave that to some American to blog about.

(Note: I have deliberately not covered the innumerable OpenSim-based virtual worlds, it’s just too exhausting! I still do visit InWorldz and OSGrid from time to time, though.)

AW 2 11 May 2018
A Scene from Active Worlds

Jaron Lanier: Ten Reasons Why You Should Quit Social Media

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I’m still taking a hiatus from the blog, but nevertheless, I wanted to share what VR pioneer, computer guru, and author Jaron Lanier (whom I have blogged about before) has to say about the dangers of social media to individual mental health and to society at large.

In a media report from ZeroHedge titled “Delete Your Account” Warns Virtual Reality Founding Father:

Lanier explained in a recent UK Channel 4 interview:

When you watch the television the television isn’t watching you. When you see the billboard the billboard isn’t seeing you… When you use these new designs — social media, search, YouTube — when you see these things, you’re being observed constantly and algorithms are taking that information and changing what you see next.

Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now according to his book:

1) You are losing your free will.

2) Quitting social media is the most finely targeted way to resist the insanity of our times.

3) Social media is making you an asshole.

4) Social media is undermining truth.

5) Social media is making what you say meaningless.

6) Social media is destroying your capacity for empathy.

7) Social media is making you unhappy.

8) Social media doesn’t want you to have economic dignity.

9) Social media is making politics impossible.

10) Social media hates your soul.

I’d like to encourage all of you to watch the Channel 4 interview via the link above. I am probably going to buy and read Jaron’s new book soon. His thinking on this subject seems to align with other recent criticisms of the negative impact of social media, and with my own experience. I used to be a firm and fervent believer in the power of social media, but no longer. And I am seriously thinking about giving up—or at least heavily scaling back—my own social media activity.

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I Need to Take a Break, But I’ll Be Back

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Photo by Asdrubal luna on Unsplash

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged anything this week, except for one post last Monday.

The storm clouds have rolled in, and I’ve got a serious week-long case of the Mondays. Things have been going wrong for me just about everywhere I choose to look.

I flubbed up a simple series of tasks I was supposed to do at a certain time in my off-hours in Second Life, and as a result, I landed up ending a working relationship that had started out so well, which I destroyed through my own thoughtlessness and stupidity. (I’ve already apologized to the person involved, and removed myself from the project. I won’t write more about it.)

But I see that single trip-up as a warning sign. Everywhere I look this week, I see evidence of my difficulties in moving ahead. I’m really not very happy with myself right now, and I know that my depression is colouring everything with the darkest of colours.

I guess what I am saying is that I need to give myself some time to admit that not everything is O.K., that I need some time to rebalance my life and refocus on the essential stuff, and that I need to go forth and battle my depression (again).  So I’m taking a break from blogging for the next little while. How long? I don’t know.

Don’t worry about me; I have plans to go for dinner with my best friend tonight and he’s sure to get an earful. I will have supper with my Mom like I always do on Sundays. I have a real-life social support network full of people who love me and care about me, and I intend to make use of it to get back up on my feet again. I have absolutely no plans to do anything drastic, so don’t worry about that.

But I do need to take a break from blogging.

You’ll all be the first to know when I do come back.

Where is Virtual Reality’s Killer App?

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

According to Wikipedia, a killer app is defined as:

In marketing terminology, a killer application (commonly shortened to killer app) is any computer program that is so necessary or desirable that it proves the core value of some larger technology, such as computer hardware, a gaming consolesoftware, a programming language, a software platform, or an operating system. In other words, consumers would buy the (usually expensive) hardware just to run that application. A killer app can substantially increase sales of the platform on which it runs.

Classic examples of killer apps in the early history of computers were the VisiCalc spreadsheet for Apple II series microcomputers, and Lotus 1-2-3 and WordStar for IBM PC compatible microcomputers. The popularity of these software applications drove sales of the hardware platforms they ran on.

So, what is virtual reality’s killer app? What VR applications are driving the uptake of VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and the range of Windows Mixed Reality headsets?

Sibjeet Mahapatra writes for TechCrunch:

Compelling virtual reality shipped to developers and consumers nearly two years ago. The first flagship headsets arrived from Oculus  and HTC back in the spring of 2016, offering enough resolution, frame rate, field of view, latency mitigation and position-tracking to produce believable visual immersion.

But no one seems to know what to do with it. To date, no killer app has extended the promise of VR from a novelty to a sticky experience or utility that reaches beyond enthusiasts to resonate with the consumer center of mass.

This isn’t to say that great experiences don’t exist. Apps like Tilt Brush, Elite: Dangerous and Google Earth VR have earned rave reviews and plaudits from enthusiasts. But we have yet to see a household phenomenon like Halo or Lotus 1-2-3 — applications that single-handedly propelled their respective platforms to wide use. At CES 2018, one industry analyst referred to VR as “drawerware,” referring to the likelihood of headsets to be stuffed in a drawer after a few forays into jejune worlds.

Sibjeet ends off his article by saying that immersion or presence is the key to VR:

Each new iteration of core VR hardware is a rising tide that makes any VR application more appealing to users on the margin. But killer apps often emerge on imperfect versions of the platforms they bring to life. The charting function of Lotus 1-2-3 strained the limits of the early graphics hardware on x86 PCs, but until 1-2-3, no one knew that programmatic generation of charts and graphs was even possible.

A killer app doesn’t need to be a perfect encapsulation of a new technology’s potential. All it needs to do is hint at the grand vision by providing a single, irresistible demonstration of value over the status quo.

In the case of VR, I’m not certain if that demonstration will occur on this generation of hardware or the next. But I believe it will be an experience that compares in intensity or joy or uniqueness to the best experiences we can access in reality. If you’re working on VR content or applications, consider this advice: Give us the ability to be present in a vision of the past, or a counterfactual world. Give us the feeling of life underwater or in space. Give us the sense of being present for an experience completely native to virtual reality, not merely an emulation of experiences we can already inhabit. Give us something real in its own right. That’s when the mass market will start to believe — and buy.

Many companies are trying to get at this elusive immersion or presence in different ways. For example, Staramba Spaces is betting that you will want to spend time with a detailed 3D recreation of a famous celebrity, religious figure, or soccer star.

Platforms such as High Fidelity and Sansar are aiming at a sort of sandbox model very similar to Second Life, by giving creators the tools to build whatever experiences they wish. Some programmers have gone so far as to create inventive, fun games such as HoverDerby and The Combat Zone, but so far it’s still been an uphill battle to encourage people to come into Sansar to try out these games.

VRChat had a surge in usage due to the livestreamers on Twitch and YouTube, but most of those people didn’t stick around once they finished trolling each other on the platform. People came, kicked the tires, and (mostly) left.

What’s clear is that virtual reality still hasn’t discovered its killer app yet. Such an app might come from an unexpected corner. But what it will offer is something that is so compelling that it drives the purchase of VR hardware. We’re not there yet. But there’s no telling what might be just around the corner…

Exploring Digital Identity Through Avatars: A Look at Drax’s Our Digital Selves Documentary

Alice Bonasio has written an article for The Next Web about Draxtor Despres (a.k.a. Bernhard Drax in real life) and his recently-completed documentary called Our Digital Selves: My Avatar Is Me.

Titled Exploring Digital Identity Through Avatars, the article looks at how a variety of differently abled people choose to represent themselves in virtual worlds such as Second Life.

For those that speculate about the potential of social VR, it is interesting to note how inhabiting a virtual world allows these people to form and maintain meaningful relationships and connections with others, as SL user iSkye Silverweb recounts:

I don’t think my partner and I ever would have met in the physical world, even if we were in the same city, and it is because I am deaf.  Communication IS an issue for me; I would always be concerned about it, with meeting anyone.

It’s a raw and intensely emotional investigation into the power of living vicariously through an avatar, and how this – as one user puts it – “provides her with sustenance” and helps people to cope with all manner of both mental and physical disabilities.

It’s a great article and I urge you to go over to The Next Web and read it in full.

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Cody Lascala wearing a VR headset in Sansar

Relay For Life of Second Life

Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event. The first Relay For Life of Second Life took place on Saturday, August 27th, and Sunday, August 28th, 2005. It was the brainchild of Jade Lily (who in real life was an airman called Keith Morris) and was reported in the The New York Times in an article called Letting your fingers do the running. The two-day event raised a total of US$5,000.

Since then, Relay for Life in Second Life has grown year by year into one of the largest celebrations in Second Life. In 2017, almost a thousand avatars raised US$230,000 for cancer research and treatment through a variety of in-world events and fundraisers. (Here’s an official SL wiki page which outlines the entire history of Relay for Life in SL.)

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Here’s the main website for Relay for Life of SL. It includes a calendar of events and a leaderboard of the top teams and the top participants in the fundraising race.

If you can, please take part in the Relay for Life events taking place all across the grid this summer! Any kind of donation helps. Thank you!

Sansar Atlas Hopping, Episode 41: We Go Clubbing!

Today, our theme for Atlas Hopping was clubs and clubbing. We visited the following five experiences:

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The Club
Experiences we visited:
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Dancing on the Platform at Tron Grid Prime Millennium
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Syngles Night Club

Second Life Fashion: Sophia Dresses by Virtue at the Crazy Fashion Shopping Event

The latest round of the Crazy Fashion shopping event is now on in Second Life, and Abiela of Virtue has created a line of classy Sophia dresses! They come in six colours: Blossom (pink floral with a geomeric pattern background), Blue, Flora (red floral on white), Noir (black floral), Oro (gold geometric pattern), and Purple. Each is available for L$195 as an exclusive design at the Crazy Fashion event.

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Here’s a SLURL to take you to the Crazy Fashion shopping event.

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