UPDATED: What’s Holding Social VR Back?

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Image by Pexels on Pixabay

I was very recently invited to join a Facebook group called Cefima, which was started by the Norwegian Film School. The purpose of the group is to explore immersive narratives, and a recent post to this group alerted me to a great editorial blogpost by the Norwegian architect, 3D artist and VR designer Kim Baumann Larsen.

Titled Social VR—The Invisible Superpower, Kim talks about his recent experiences in TheWaveVR and Sansar, and wonders why they are not more popular:

This afternoon I spent an hour hanging out with legendary French electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre, and together we watched an amazing never seen before and impossible to do in real life VJ set with other fan girls and boys. It was a social VR experience in TheWaveVR and the DJ and VJ was Sutu Eats Flies, famous in his own right for his gigs on this emerging social music VR platform. You would think there would have been hundreds, if not thosuands of fans of Jarre’s music attending such an event that enabled anyone to walk up to the legend, to become virtually friends with him and to casually converse, but the instance I was in contained merely a couple of dozen of people.

Just a few days earlier in Sansar, another social VR platform, I had woken up at 4 am to catch a virtual comedy show titled Comedy Gladiators, in which comedian and YouTube sensation Steve Hofstetter brought friends and fellow comedians Maz Jobrani, Ben Gleib, Alonzo Bodden, and Mary-Lynn Rajskub into VR. There were more people at the comedy show than at the concert but not by a long stretch. While I don’t know how many instances of either shows that were running in parallel, it is obvious that whatever people are using their VR headsets for these days it is mostly not involving social VR.

With both Sansar and VRChat recently available on Steam, the latter being the by far largest platform for social VR, figures are emerging that show just how few people are in a social VR at a given moment. While Steam is not the only distribution platform for VR, there is Oculus of course and several of the apps can be launched outside of Steam and Oculus, the numbers are quite telling. On Steam this past Sunday 9 people were seen in High Fidelity, 12 in Altspace VR, 62 in Sansar, 79 in Bigscreen (Beta), 340 in RecRoom, and 8098 in VRChat.

He goes on to speculate on the reasons for this:

Ask most any one who is working in virtual reality where the future is for VR and most will say that while it is hard to speculate and give a definitive answer it will most certainly involve some kind of social VR. So why aren’t people flocking to these experiences then? The first problem is that VR gear is still rather expensive and the power of VR and of social VR in particular can’t be understood unless it is experienced first hand. The problem with that is that there aren’t many places one can experience it in public and most people doesn’t happen to have a friend or colleague with VR gear nearby.

The second problem is that we have become accustomed to asynchronous communication via platforms like Facebook, Twitter and SMS being the de facto way of communicating long distance and media-on-demand is how most people fit entertainment into their increasingly busy life. Meeting up virtually at specific days and times it seems requires too much of an effort.

And, I must admit, I myself had not thought too much about the synchronous nature of social VR and how we have as a society become more accustomed to asynchronous forms of communication like Facebook and Twitter. As for the cost, I do believe that that is only a temporary problem, as the cost of VR equipment keeps decreasing over time.

It’s an interesting take on why social VR is not attracting much attention (yet), and I would urge you to go over to Kim’s blog, KIMSARC, and read the entire post for yourself.

UPDATE Dec. 18th: Tech blogger Robert Scoble commented on a cross-posting of this blogpost to the Virtual Reality group on Facebook, raising another good reason that people don’t like social VR: the obnoxious behaviour of trolls.

I got offered a sex act within seconds of arriving in one. Most people are tired of interacting with strangers. For that reason and others.

I have blogged about this topic previously: Why Women Don’t Like Social VR. Culture and behaviour researcher Jessica Outlaw has done market research which shows that some women avoid social VR precisely because they feel vulnerable and, at times, unsafe. This is still a topic which is not really getting the attention it deserves, in my opinion.

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Image by pixel2013 on Pixabay
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Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: The Shop and Hop Christmas Mall Is Now Open!

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 150 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! More details here


Every year, Second Life hosts a Christmas-time shopping extravaganza called the Shop and Hop. This year’s Shop and Hop runs from Dec. 17th, 2018 to Jan. 4th, 2019, so you have plenty of time to come in, shop the sales, and pick up some fabulous freebies!

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The sims are absolutely jam-packed, sim crossings are a nightmare, and the lag is HORRENDOUS (particularly in the Halcyon sim, where everybody and their dog is trying to get into the Blueberry shop, which is giving away a sweater dress fatpack and a L$250 gift card). But it’s still worth the wait and the hassle to get in! Or you can choose to wait until late December/early January when it’s less busy.

Here are pictures of some of the many freebies available at this year’s Shop and Hop! Every store in the 5-sim mall has at least one free gift for shoppers.

First up is a complete fantasy outfit with wings by Lune Bleue/Silvan Moon Designs, paired with Snowy hair by Limerance (which comes with or without snowflakes, in a complete fatpack of ombre tones):

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(If you find the skirt to be a little too over-the-top, you can detach it, and the resulting dress still looks great! The matching sleeves are a separate item too.)

Next is the Isa dress in olive, the gift from Valentina E, with the Rowne Jai classic pumps (which come in a fatpack of 15 different colours!) and the Era hairstyle by Analog Dog (another fatpack of colours, shown is just the dark browns HUD):

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Here’s a close-up of the hair (Analog Dog has particularly nicely textured flexiprim hairstyles):

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And here’s a close-up of the pumps, which could become a wardrobe staple:

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This is the Blueberry gift, a low-cut sweater dress, which comes in both a tight version and a looser version, with a dizzying choice of colours in the included HUD (and it even includes the panties!):

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Next up is a wonderfully detailed black maxi corset from Atreum, paired with a stylish Homberg hat by ICONIC:

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Finally, we have another three Shop and Hop gifts shown together in one look: the cheeky “Sorry, Santa” red dress by Envious, paired with the fun Orra hairstyle by Elikatira, plus these awesome Clelia platform shoes from Phedora, which come with a 22-colour HUD:

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You can even tint each of the inside, sole, base and front of the shoe separately!

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And that’s just a small sample of what you can pick up FOR FREE at the Shop and Hop! If you want to see even more of the freebies from this event, longtime Second Life blogger Chic Aeon presents a completely different selection of Shop and Hop gifts in the latest post on her blog, Chic at Phil’s Place.

VRChat Now Has 50,000 User-Created Worlds

Did you know that you can help support my blog (as well as the upcoming Metaverse Newscast show), and get great rewards in return? Here’s how.


VRChat (still the most popular of the newer social VR platforms) has released a new promotional video to coincide with its release on the Oculus Store:

We are excited to announce that we are going live on the Oculus Store! This means that if you’re using the Oculus Rift, you can now play VRChat straight from the Oculus app, without having to go through Steam and SteamVR. We’re very glad to have a presence in the Oculus Store. You might also notice that we’re featured on their front page!

Here’s the 2-minute promo video, which shows off what you can do in VRChat to good effect:

One fact from the video that I found interesting was that VRChat now has over 50,000 user-created worlds!

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To compare, Jason Gholston said last summer that Sansar users had created over 16,000 experiences to date (most of them are unpublished and therefore not in the Sansar Atlas). One problem with so many different worlds in VRChat is that the choice quickly becomes overwhelming, which is why bloggers like Agent M83 are providing a useful service by highlighting those worlds they particularly like.