Traveling Between Social VR Platforms: Does VR Market Success Depend Upon a Seamless, Interconnected Metaverse?

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One of the people I follow on Twitter is Ben Lang, who is the co-founder and executive editor of the popular virtual reality news website Road to VR. Yesterday, he posted:

I’m starting to think that VR won’t have its consumer mainstream moment (smartphone levels of adoption) until a comprehensive metaverse emerges that interconnects and makes *all* VR content social to some extent. Stuff like this awesome immersive music video is really freaking cool, but would be 100 times richer if discoverable through something a simple as a ‘VR hyperlink’, as well as easily being able to bring a friend along to experience it. Telling a friend ‘hey there’s this cool new thing, come check it out with me’, and then asking them to download an app and then coordinating a time to get online together to invite each other and then *finally* seeing the thing for 10 mins isn’t tenable for smaller experiences.

The immersive music video he refers to is a new free VR experience on Steam called Sheaf – Together EP, and it’s truly a wonderful, relaxing experience, which I can recommend highly:

Ben is making the point that it shouldn’t be so difficult to share VR experiences such as this with friends. And a seamless, interconnected metaverse would probably give a huge boost to the consumer VR market.

Another Twitter user called Matrixscene responded to Ben, with a link to a two-part report on how a metaverse working group did a field test for traversing disparate virtual worlds to see how they interconnect with each other.

Part 1 of the report gives several examples of links or portals between social VR experiences, for example:

  • Portal links in JanusVR
  • Links in Cryptovoxels to other WebVR sites

Part 2 of the report details a “field trip” the author and several other people undertook to see how well they could navigate between various virtual worlds. The places visited included:

The author, Jin (Madjin) writes:

We were communicating over Discord’s voice chat the entire time. Anarchy Arcade served as the most premium base reality we ventured to on this trip for several main reasons:
– Shortcuts were easy to launch
– Universally compatible
– Optimized heavily in the background

So, as you can see, the first tentative steps in cross-linking virtual worlds have already been taken. However, the work of creating a much more comprehensive and seamless metaverse to benefit VR consumers still faces many significant hurdles—including a patent filed by IBM in 2008 that appears to cover teleporting avatars between disparate virtual worlds.

How soon do you think it will be until we get a truly seamless VR metaverse? Or do you think it will never happen? As always, you are invited to join the ongoing conversations on this and many other topics on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the first cross-worlds discussion group!

Virtual Memory Palaces: Combining an Ancient Memory Technique with Modern VR

Cicero (Wikipedia)

The method of loci (also referred to as memory palaces, memory places, or memory spaces) is a technique for remembering information which dates back to the ancient Greek poet Simonides (who lived circa 556 — circa 468 B.C.).

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

According to a legend passed on by Cicero (106-43 B.C.E.), the discovery occurred at a banquet in Thessaly which Simonides attended in order to present a lyric poem written in praise of the host. Simonides was called outside shortly after his performance, and during his absence the roof of the banqueting hall suddenly collapsed, crushing the other diners, and mangling many of their corpses beyond recognition. Simonides, however, found he was able to identify the bodies (important for proper burial) by consulting his visual memory image of the people sitting around the banqueting table, which enabled him to identify the corpses according to where they were found. From this experience,

[Simonides] inferred that persons desiring to train this faculty [of memory] must select places and form mental images of the things they wish to remember and store those images in the places, so that the order of the places will preserve the order of the things, and the images of the things will denote the things themselves, and we shall employ the places and images respectively as a wax writing-tablet and the letters written on it. (Cicero, De Oratore, II, lxxxvi – translation: Sutton & Rackham, 1942).

Supposedly, this was the origin of the mnemonic technique known as the method of loci, described by Roman rhetoricians such as Cicero and Quintilian (c.35-c.95 C.E.), and widely employed, in various forms, by orators and others from classical, through medieval, and up until early modern times.

Memory palaces help people remember information by taking advantage of the brain’s natural ability to spatially organize thoughts and concepts. The user associates information with objects and locations in a three-dimensional environment. Here’s a summary of the technique if you are interested in learning it.

A recent academic research paper by Eric Krokos, Catherine Plaisant, and Amitabh Varshney at the Univerity of Maryland, published in the journal Virtual Reality, has shown that people accessing virtual memory palaces in virtual reality (i.e. using a VR headset) were able to remember things better compared to people accessing the same memory palace using a flat computer desktop and mouse. (The research paper is Open Access, which means anybody on the Internet can download and read it without having to pay a publisher, in this case, Springer. You can access the paper for free using the link above, just click on the blue Download PDF button in the upper right-hand corner.)

I was pleased to discover this article, as the experiment was very similar to one that I wanted to conduct in my wildly overambitious research proposal, which unfortunately I had to suspend work on for various practical reasons. (I am currently writing up a paper about my experience. I am now working on developing a new research project involving virtual reality and libraries.)

In the University of Maryland study, testing was done using pre-constructed medieval town and palace environments purchased through TurboSquid, and 42 pictures of the faces of famous people. The pictures of the faces were hand-positioned in the 3D environment. Study participants were given a list of the pictures and names to study before the experiment. Next, each participant was given access to the memory palace, using either a VR headset or a or a desktop monitor with a mouse. Then, they had 5 minutes to study the memory palace with 21 pictures scattered throughout it. Then, in the recall phase, the pictures of the faces were swapped out with numbers, and participants were asked to give a name and level of confidence for their recalled faces for each numbered position. Each study participant was tested in both the town and the palace scenes, and both in VR and desktop mode. (If a face was shown in one set, it was not repeated in the second set. The 21 faces were presented all at once, and users were able to view and memorize the faces in any order of their choosing.)

Images Taken from the Research Paper

Statistical analysis of the experimental results supported the study’s hypothesis that a virtual memory palace experienced in an immersive VR headset led to a more accurate recall than on a mouse-controlled desktop display. Study participants in VR headsets also had a higher level of confidence in their answers than desktop users. A news report on the research project from the University of Maryland website states:

The results showed an 8.8 percent improvement overall in recall accuracy using the VR headsets, a statistically significant number according to the research team.

In post-study questionnaires, all 40 participants said that they were completely comfortable—and adept—in navigating a desktop computer to access information, yet all but two said they preferred the immersive VR environment as a potential learning platform. The questionnaire also found that only two people said they felt “uncomfortable” using VR.

Many of the participants said the immersive “presence” while using VR allowed them to focus better. This was reflected in the research results: 40 percent of the participants scored at least 10 percent higher in recall ability using VR over the desktop display.

In fact, there is already a VR app available which allows you to construct memory palaces and explore them in your VR headset. The product is called Munx VR:

Munx is a VR platform for building memory palaces to learn huge amounts in short time and with full retention. By combining medieval memory techniques with modern technology, we are redefining the way we learn, understand, and retain information in our minds. Imagine knowing the periodic table in the same way you know the layout of your living room, or being able to recall a president or ruler with the same effortlessness of reaching for a mug when making a cup of tea.

If you’re interested, you can get Munx VR on Steam (it’s free). Here’s a promotional video for the product:

UPDATED: How You Can Get a Grant of US$1,000-25,000 for Your Avatar Project

Since I asked Facebook to delete all my data and I quit the social network at the end of 2018, I have been spending much more time on Reddit and Twitter. On Twitter, I have ruthlessly cut the number of people I’m following, focusing in on people in virtual reality and virtual worlds.

Twitter is where I found this Forbes article, which reported:

Virtual Beings Grants announced at Virtual Beings summit.

The grants range from $1,000 – $25,000 and are obtainable by any group building a virtual being. Virtual beings include digital humans, virtual influencers, virtual assistants, creative AIs, avatars, and tools for virtual beings. There are four grant categories: games, enterprise, social, and education. Applications are open through September 17th and winners will be announced October 15th.

If you are interested and want to find out more, you can visit the grants information page. This initiative is spearheaded by the first-ever Virtual Beings Summit, a recent conference held in San Francisco meant to encourage virtual beings projects. They say:

Virtual Beings Is A New Space. To Believe Today That A Virtual Being Might Be At The Heart Of Every Part Of Our Lives Is A Big, Crazy Leap Of Faith. We Invite Those Crazy Enough To Believe To Sign Up Here!

Hmmm, I wonder if I should apply for a grant to support my work informing Second Life users about how to style their avatar for as few Linden dollars as possible? *sigh* Probably not.

By the way, here’s my latest Second Life avatar styling accomplishment:

This avatar is wearing:

Mesh Head: Leila Bento mesh head by Altamura (free group gift from last Christmas)

Mesh Body: Lara Bento mesh body by Maitreya

Skin Applier: Diana by Clef de Peau (free group gift from last Christmas)

Kimono and Shoes: Tsuru women’s kimono outfit by Secrets of Gaia (free hunt gift in the current Medieval Fantasy Hunt XIX)

Choker: Daphne choker from Beloved Jewelry (free; a hunt gift from last year)

Hair: Haruka hair by aa*Hair (free gift from the 2018 Hair Fair)

Animation Override: Chubby Girl AO by [ImpEle] (free from the SL Marketplace). This is a nice, simple, calm, free AO with no crazy movements. To show off the sleeves on this wonderful kimono, I added the Shoulder Overrider by Ethik Nacon, which you can use to adjust the shoulder position of any pose or AO.

TOTAL COST OF THIS AVATAR: L$3,198 (L$2,075 for the Maitreya Lara body, L$299 for the Shoulder Overrider, L$50 to join the Altamura Design/Mesh Avatars group, and L$99 for the Altamura Omega System Kit available at this exact SLURL.)


UPDATE July 29th: I just discovered this VentureBeat article reporting on the various presentations at the Virtual Beings Summit.

More and More People Are Visiting Sansar, and I Couldn’t Be Happier

Ryan in Drax’s basement, telling the story of how he got banned (and then unbanned) from Second Life. I really like this picture that Drax took and posted to Twitter.

True confession time: I still feel like an idiot for throwing such a diva hissy fit when I was served with a 3-day ban from Second Life just before the Tilia Town Hall. It was not my proudest moment and I am deeply ashamed of myself, and I would once again like to apologize to the staff at Linden Lab. (You can read all about it here.)

But it also happens to be a good story, and who can resist telling a good story? I was telling people about it in Drax’s basement before we went Atlas Hopping on Saturday morning when Drax took this picture. You can actually watch the whole conversation here (starting at the 1:20 mark):

I haven’t been to Atlas Hopping in several months. In fact, I have been so busy covering other social VR platforms and virtual worlds, and playing with my new Oculus Quest, that I haven’t spent a lot of time in Sansar like I used to! In fact, I had been away so long that I had even forgotten how to use some of the control buttons in Sansar’s VR mode! That’s what happens when you try to cover too many virtual worlds in your blog.

I can’t believe that we are almost at 100 episodes of Atlas Hopping! (Yesterday’s was episode 98.) I want to congratulate Draxtor Despres (the hardest-working man in the metaverse!) for being the driving force to get this regular event started and to keep this going. I met many new people yesterday and I had so much fun!

And I have noticed something significant: more and more newcomers are checking out Sansar. Later that same day, I encountered a group of newbies sitting in a circle on the ground in Nya Alchemi’s medieval roleplay experience The Faire, having an intense philosophical discussion about avatars versus the people operating them, how avatars present themselves, and sexual harassment in virtual worlds (I’m the one wearing the angel wings in the photo below):

For over an hour I chatted with people from around the world (including Iraq and Syria), and again, I had a wonderful time! They were all people I had never seen in Sansar before.

There’s been a lot of discussion and debate on the official Sansar Discord server about the user concurrency statistics collected by Galen and Gindipple and how accurate they are. And the Sansar community manager, Galileo, told us that while he can’t share the internal figures from Linden Lab with us, he said they are definitely higher than Gindipple’s and Galen’s stats. And my observations in-world would agree with Galileo.

The Monstercat launch event was a massive success for Sansar. I don’t know how many people attended in total (I wasn’t paying much attention at the time, because that was the exact same day I was having my diva hissy fit), but I do not doubt that it was an significant milestone for Sansar, and it brought a lot of new people in.

And I have popped into the Sansar Social Hub regularly over the weekend, and it is always busy, even at 3:00 a.m.! Groups of avatars are chatting about technology, virtual worlds and many other topics.

More and more people are coming into Sansar and discovering it for themselves, and I couldn’t be happier. I think the future looks promising. And I want to congratulate Ebbe Altberg and his team at Linden Lab for making this happen. It’s been a fascinating journey for me to blog about Sansar from its opening day through to today, and I very much look forward to blogging about it in the future.

(And, according to my calculations, I have had one diva hissy fit per year, so I should be good now for another twelve months or so. I’ve been assured by Galileo and Lacie Linden that they have prepared puppy and penguin GIFs for immediate application the next time it happens!)

via GIPHY

Every blogger has his or her biases. My bias is that I have an abiding love of Linden Lab and their products, both Second Life and Sansar. It’s the reason I get so upset sometimes, because I care passionately about the company and its products. I’ll admit it, I am a raving fan. And Sansar was the whole reason I started this blog in the first place!

Things are most definitely looking promising for Sansar.