The IEEE VR 2020 Conference March 22-26 Will Have a Free Online Experience Via Social VR

The recently-concluded Educators in VR 2020 International Summit was proof that you can indeed run an entire six-day conference in social VR! So I thought I would use this space to promote another VR conference which, while not being held completely in virtual reality, will have an online component via social VR. And the best part is, the online experience is completely free! All you have to do is register.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers‘ (IEEE) Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces (IEEE VR for short) is the premier international event for the presentation of research results in the broad area of virtual reality. This year, the conference runs from March 22nd-26th, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia.

As part of the IEEE’s long term goal to increase the sustainability and accessibility of the conference, this year IEEE VR 2020 is hosting a collection of online social virtual spaces for people who cannot travel to Atlanta during the week of March 22-26th. These web-based 3D spaces will be accessible in traditional web browsers on most devices, and in VR via WebVR. This experimental track is IEEE VR’s first step toward future conferences adding even more meaningful remote experiences for people who are not able to physically attend the conference.

The conference organizers will be live streaming video of the technical paper sessions and keynotes (information will be available on the VR website closer to the conference). Taking advantage of these streams, they are creating 3D social spaces for remote participants to co-watch the talks with others, socialize and meet each other. They also plan to use these 3D social spaces to host a virtual poster session (for a subset of the posters whose non-attending co-authors would like to present remotely).

All of the online activities this year will take place synchronously with the real-world conference, which will generally be 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST during the week of March 22-26th, 2020. (And let’s hope that the coronavirus epidemic does not scuttle those plans!) A complete program overview is available on the official IEEE VR 2020 conference website.

The IEEE will use a customized version of the Mozilla Hubs social VR platform to host a collection of virtual rooms for people who cannot physically attend the conference. Participants can join the Hubs rooms from any web browser, using 2D screens or immersive VR displays. The conference site is located at https://hubs.ieeevr.online, and will be available to all registered conference attendees.

These rooms will include spaces to co-watch the conference video streams in small groups, visit a virtual poster session running synchronously with the live poster sessions at IEEE VR, and social rooms for remote attendees. Anyone may register for the remote experience and join other remote viewers in the shared 3D spaces, discuss the talks and posters and meet other remote attendees.

The IEEE’s goal is to increase access to the conference for remote participants who would otherwise be unable to attend due to mobility impairments, chronic health issues, temporary travel limitations, or a choice to reduce their impact on the environment due to carbon emissions from long distance travel.

Participants access the Hubs rooms by visiting https://hubs.ieeevr.online, and logging in with the email address they used to register for the conference (see information below on how to register). The IEEE will require all remote participants to register for IEEE VR on the main registration site (at no cost) to gain access to the hubs virtual spaces.

The IEEE is using their regular conference registration system to register for the Online Experience.  Please note that registration is required to gain access to the Hubs server (at https://hubs.ieeevr.online) and the VR 2020 Slack server (used by both local and online attendees to chat about the conference).

To register for the online experience, use the main registration website for the conference. Fill out the registration form via the “Click here to Register” button on http://ieeevr.org/2020/attend/registration.html and select only the “Online Experience” on the final page (Registration Items). Some of the questions (such as whether you need a Visa Letter and Dietary Restrictions) are only relevant for people attending in person, so you can select “No” for the Visa Letter and ignore the Dietary Restrictions selections.

The IEEE will be uploading the registration list to the hubs.ieeevr.online system and to the Slack invitation system (https://ieeevr-slack-invite.glitch.me/) at regular intervals leading up to the conference.  They will post updates to the http://ieeevr.org/2020/online/ website about social and training sessions with the online system, over the next few weeks.

In addition, the IEEE VR 2020 conference is looking for volunteers to help run the social experiences. If you are interested in remotely participating, and would like to help make this a great experience for everyone, please consider volunteering! To sign up as a possible volunteer, please fill out this form:

Hope to see you there!

Photo by stephan sorkin on Unsplash
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Insomnia, Worry, and Fear: Waiting for the Storm to Hit

Insomnia deepdream part 1 (by Lubomir Panak; CC BY-NC 2.0)

It’s 2:30 a.m. and I’ve been up for over an hour now. I can’t sleep, and in five hours I need to get ready to head back to my job at the university after a much-needed, four-week vacation.

I’m worried about the coronavirus epidemic, which seems to have already tipped over into a global pandemic. I went through my adjustment reaction early, and I’ve done all the preparing I can, but on a night like tonight, it all just feels so hopeless, building a tiny boat made out of paper to ride out a tsunami (or “flunami”, as one witty person put it).

I have, in my usual obsessive librarian fashion, pored through all the newsfeeds and discussion groups, to compile lists of credible, authoritative resources to share with friends, family, colleagues, and you, my blog readers (the most up-to-date list is at the end of this particular blogpost).


The major scientific research paper which estimates the overall case fatality rate of SARS-CoV-2 at 2.3% (which has been widely reported by the mainstream news media) was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Feb. 24th, 2020 and is available here: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2762130. The title of the paper is: “Characteristics of and Important Lessons From the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak in China: Summary of a Report of 72,314 Cases From the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention”.

Some sobering statistics from that study of 72,314 cases, the largest conducted to date, are:

  • 81% of cases are mild, 14% are severe, and 5% are critical (the case fatality rate for critical cases was 49.0%; in other words, half of the critical patients died)
  • the case fatality rates were 8.0% in patients aged 70-79 years and 14.8% in patients aged ≥80 years (I worry for my parents)
  • the case fatality rates were 10.5% for people with cardiovascular disease, 7.3% for diabetes, 6.3% for chronic respiratory disease, 6.0% for hypertension, and 5.6% for cancer

As someone who is older, significantly overweight, and has several underlying health conditions (hypertension, asthma, type II diabetes), I know that I run a significantly higher risk of a severe reaction if I should become infected with SARS-CoV-2 and get COVID-19. So I’m afraid.

As of Feb. 29th, 2020, the World Health Organization is now recommending that people that fall into these categories limit their exposure to crowded areas and to people who are already sick:
“If you are 60+, or have an underlying condition like cardiovascular disease, a respiratory condition or diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. Try to avoid crowded areas, or places where you might interact with people who are sick.” Source:
https://twitter.com/DrTedros/status/1233678276096331776 (scroll down to the 5th tweet in the series where this quote is taken from).


I’ve already got my bag packed and hanging from the doorknob: Lysol disinfectant wipes, Purell hand sanitizer, some surgical gloves, a couple of 3M respirator masks, some eye protection to fit over my glasses (even though I doubt I will be using the last three items, they are coming with me regardless).

I’ll be packing my own lunch (something I never do) and lugging a large thermal travel mug of black coffee, instead of standing in line at Starbucks. I’ve got this all planned out, exactly how to limit my exposure to other people. And all this elaborate over-preparation is happening in a city (Winnipeg, Manitoba) which is still very far away from any of the SARS-CoV-2 cases currently popping up in North America.

Now it’s a quarter after three. I was kind of hoping that writing all this down, getting it out of my system, would make me tired so I could go to bed and finally get some sleep. But it’s not working.

I’m worried and afraid and I am wide awake, waiting for the storm to hit.

UPDATE 8:25 a.m.: Well, I never did get back to sleep, so I will probably be dragging my ass come quitting time today. But I am feeling a bit better and a bit less anxious than I was last night, which is good.

And yes, I do well realize that my coronavirus coverage has taken this blog on an unexpected tangent, and probably one that is more confusing to my regular readers than any previous tangent I have taken. Please understand that my blogging about it just my way of venting (as this blogpost is).

And I will endeavour to continue writing about social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse on a very regular basis, I promise!

And, to address my anxiety, I recently signed up for a two-year subscription to Calm Radio, which I am listening to right now…they’ve got a 30%-off sale on at the moment, but you can also listen for free if you don’t mind the occasional advertisement about their streaming music service. I can recommend them highly! (Even the ads are soothing!)