Pandemic Diary: April 2nd, 2020

Quarantine is the cultural appropriation of depressed people.

—Comment from a recent Reddit post on r/Coronavirus

Today has been one of those days where, as the day wore on, the more anxious, depressed, and angry at turns that I got. It didn’t help that I swore I would stay off Twitter and Reddit today (I was up till 1:00 a.m. last night reading through my Twitter feed, which at this point is 80% coronavirus-related experts.) You can imagine how well that resolution went.

It didn’t help that this morning I posted a musing to the r/Winnipeg subReddit community, about how the coronavirus pandemic was like a 6-to-18-month blizzard that we all had to get through, all isolated in our homes at the same time, venturing out from time to time in the storm to clear the spaces around our doors, but basically hunkered down at home. Everybody stuck at home, but going through the blizzard together, pulling together and helping each other get through this.

I got a bunch of ignorant comments and I finally yanked my post this evening, angry at the world, and angry at myself for letting some social media trolls get to me. I should know better by now at my age.

And fucking Jared Kushner dispensing pandemic advice at today’s White House press conference shit-show (which of course I heard about through my Twitter feed) just about finished me off. I’m not sure my blood pressure can take any more of this. And we are only at the first million cases of COVID-19; what is the rest of April gonna look like? May? June? July?!??

I am so completely and utterly done with this day. I am popping a couple of Lorazepam with my chamomile tea this evening.

Please, stay home. As I have already said, with my underlying health conditions, if I get COVID-19 I am a sitting duck. Flatten the curve.

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The Immersive Learning Research Network Partners with Educators in VR to Host the iLRN Conference in Virtual Reality, June 21st to 25th, 2020: How You Can Attend for Free!

I’m not sure how I missed it, but the Immersive Learning Research Network is among the many organizations that have decided to completely move their real-world conference this year into virtual reality (here’s the press release):

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN) has made the decision to host its IEEE technically co-sponsored annual conference for 2020 fully online and in virtual reality (VR), supported by a number of other software platforms. iLRN will offer this conference, now in its sixth year, in conjunction with Educators in VR, the organizers of the highly successful Educators in VR International Summit that was held in VR in February of this year, which included over 170 speakers and attracted over 6,000 event attendees.

The iLRN Annual Conference is the premier scholarly event focusing on advances in the use of VR as well as augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and other extended reality (XR) technologies to support learners across the full span of learning—from K-12 through higher education to work-based, informal, and lifelong learning contexts. iLRN 2020 had been slated to take place at the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, California, USA from June 21 to 25. The conference dates remain the same despite the shift to the virtual format, though the deadline has been extended for work-in-progress academic papers as well as for practitioner presentations, workshops, panels, and special sessions to April 19, 2020.

And, as Educators in VR reminds us in this tweet, early-bird registration for students, faculty, teachers, and educational administrators is free! But you have to register by April 19th, 2020. Here’s the form to get your free tickets via EventBrite (please note that you must use an email address associated with your educational institution to take advantage of this offer).

Nathie Looks at YARTVRA Apps: Nineteen Virtual Reality Apps for Remote Work and Education

Yes, I am still on my little one-man crusade to make the acronym YARTVRA a thing!

For those of you who are new to my blog, YARTVRA is short for Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual Reality App, that is, any social VR platform primarily intended for business use, to bring together people who may be working remotely into a shared virtual office space.

Nathaniël de Jong (a.k.a. Nathie) is a well-known Dutch YouTub influencer with over 558,000 subscribers, who often posts review videos of the latest and greatest VR hardware and software on his channel. A couple of days ago he decided to take a look at, yes, YARTVRA. Obviously, this market segment has received a lot of attention lately because of the global public health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which is probably why Nathie decided to make and release this video.

Nathie actually manages to squeeze no less than 19 different platforms into this 20-minute video, which unfortunately means that he only talks about each platform in a very brief and general sort of way for about minute, before he promptly moves on to the next one.

After a while, the relentless succession of all the look-alike business-oriented YARTVRAs, in particular, tends to overwhelm rather than inform. (ENGAGE still manages to stand out from the crowd in this video, though. And Oxford Medical Simulation definitely gives me some rather creepy uncanny valley vibes.)

Oxford Medical Simulation (image taken from their website)

Nathie appears to have taken as his starting point the recent Road to VR article, 34 VR Apps for Remote Work, Education, Training, Design Review, and More, and, much like the article, he breaks the various platforms down into four groups as follows (with links to their websites, courtesy of the credits in his YouTube video, and also links to where I have written about the products previously on this blog):

Team Collaboration and Presentation Platforms
– MeetinVR https://meetinvr.net/ (which I blogged about here)
– Glue https://glue.work/ (which I blogged about here)
– Connec2 https://connec2.nl/en/ (which is new to me)
– MeetingRoom https://meetingroom.io/ (which I blogged about here)
– Dream https://dreamos.com/ (which I blogged about here)
– VSpatial https://www.vspatial.com/ (which I blogged about here)

Social VR Platforms (those which Nathie thinks could, at least theoretically, be repurposed for business use)
– AltspaceVR https://altvr.com/ (blogged here)
– Bigscreen https://www.bigscreenvr.com/ (blogged here)
– Mozilla Hubs https://hubs.mozilla.com/ (blogged here)
– Facebook Horizon (currently in closed alpha testing, and a non-business-oriented product, so I’m rather mystified as to why Nathie chose to include it in his overview; blogged about here)
– VTime XR https://vtime.net/ (blogged about here)

Education and Training Platforms
– ENGAGE https://engagevr.io/ (which I blogged about here)
– Oxford Medical Simulation https://oxfordmedicalsimulation.com/ (which I blogged about here)
– Rumii https://www.dogheadsimulations.com/rumii (which I blogged about here)
– Acadicus https://acadicus.com/ (which I blogged about here)
– Wonda VR https://www.wondavr.com/ (which I blogged about here)

Design, Creation, and Prototyping Platforms
– Sketchbox https://www.sketchbox3d.com/creation (which I have not yet covered)
– The Wild https://thewild.com/ (blogged here)
– Softspace https://www.softspace.io/ (which is also new to me)

So between Nathie’s video and the Road to VR article, I now have a whole bunch of new YARTVRA to explore! Expect more blogposts soon, to add more products to my ever-growing list of social VR platforms and virtual worlds.

CoinFest 2020 Runs March 30th to April 5th in Decentraland

CoinFest 2020, a virtual cryptocurrency conference, is taking place from March 30th to April 5th, 2020 within the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland.

But, before we get to that, I have a bone to pick with one of the crypto news organizations that is covering this event. Let me rant.

The CoinTelegraph cryptocurrency news website actually used the following image to illustrate an article titled Crypto Conference Defies COVID-19 Lockdown by Hosting in Virtual Realm:

What the in name of sweet minty Jesus is this?!?? Somebody needs to inform the folks at CoinTelegraph that this is a pandemic, and not some goddamned mix-and-mingle cocktail party with face masks added as the latest trendy fashion accessory. The tone-deafness of this is absolutely astounding, and frankly I find it offensive.

The accompanying article states:

The COVID-19 crisis may have put a stop to millions of sports events, work conferences and meet-ups across the world, but it has not halted those in the cryptocurrency space.

The Coinfest Conference, which runs until April 4, has found a way to defy the coronavirus lockdown by setting up shop in the digital blockchain realm of Decentraland. 

The first day of the virtual conference kicked off on March 30th, beginning with a round of games that offered users the chance to win MANA tokens — one of Decentraland’s native currencies.


All right, now that I have gotten that off my chest, let’s get back to the actual conference itself.

You can get free tickets for Coinfest here, as well as see a complete schedule of events taking place.

All events take place at the Meeting Center at the Decentraland Conference Center (that last link should take you directly there, although you might have to set up an avatar first if you’ve never visited before). The owner and operator of the Conference Center, Carl Fravel, has provided a guide to getting started in Decentraland.

Carl himself will be giving a presentation at Coinfest at 6:30 p.m. UTC (11:30 a.m. Pacific Time) in Saturday, April 4th, on the topic Decentraland – A Virtual World on the Blockchain. And, if you like, you can join in the party which starts at 5:00 p.m. UTC at this location.

See you there!