NeosVR Field Trip: I Pay a Long-Overdue Visit to the Innovative Social VR Platform

On Saturday afternoon, I was invited on a guided tour of the innovative, multi-purpose social VR platform NeosVR by members of the NeosVR team, including Tomáš Mariančík (a.k.a. Frooxius), the talented lead software developer who is building NeosVR, and Karel Hulec (the co-founder and CEO of Solirax, the Czech company building NeosVR).

As you might know, I have been working on several iterations of an infographic, in my efforts to categorize and classify existing social VR platforms. As part of this work, I have moved NeosVR into (and then out of) the coveted, checks-all-the-boxes, usable-in-all-the-categories green centre spot on my infographic (the latest published version is here). And today, I had an opportunity to see NeosVR being used for remote workteams at a business, and chat with one of their business users. Expect NeosVR to move back to that green spot in the centre in Version 2.2 of my infographic!

Peter, who was a part of my tour group and whose company, Megavolt Services LLC, does pro bono design work for a pressurized spacesuit design and spaceflight training company called Pacific Spaceflight, told me:

I’m an engineering technician with a background in electrical engineering and aerospace.

We use VR to do model conceptualization. And also human factor studies. Basically we use the right way to wear things that are going to be used on our suits to make sure they’re worth building in real life. For fit and finish and ergonomics. We’re also using Neos to do collaborative work among team members in light of the COVID-19 issue.

Before I joined Pacific Spaceflight I was using Neos to do a lot of my modeling. I also professionally and personally build a lot of high-end cosplay. So that’s why use VR to help do a lot of the scaling before I 3D-print a costume!

Peter (the avatar in the hard hat) demonstrates a NeosVR world used
for training purposes on a Pacific Spaceflight project.

In his spare time, Peter has also built a model of the International Space Station (ISS), where you have to move around the space station using your hands to grip and full yourself yourself through the zero-gravity environment! Peter’s world, where you can perch yourself in the cupola and watch the ever-changing vista of the Earth rotating beneath the space station, compares quite favourably with the standalone VR experience Mission: ISS! Frooxius tells me:

The locomotion system is one of the things we’re proud of, since it can be scripted to behave in very complex ways like that in game, and create very unique worlds and experiences.

NeosVR can also be a platform to build games, using the system’s LogiX scripting language. I was taken to a world where we boarded a sailing ship with very realistic navigation abilities, and chatted a bit about how NeosVR has attracted some users from places like VRChat, Second Life, and Garry’s Mod (GMOD), a physics sandbox game popular with developers. I can see how Second Life’s massive sailing community might easily be enticed into trying out NeosVR!

Shifty, the Quality Control Lead for NeosVR, tells me:

It’s best to think of Neos as a creation engine first, and foremost- a place for content creators to create experiences, games, gadgets, etc. And especially going forward, too with subsequent updates, we’ll only further appeal to audiences of those platforms.

I had a demonstration of a project which NeosVR team member RueShejn is currently working on: a world which allows the user to build their own game (for example, two teams playing a capture-the-flag game).

According to the project’s white paper (which is well worth reading in full):

We spent a significant amount of time engineering and implementing Neos’ engine and networking architecture from the ground up to enable its complex functionality and high flexibility, offering an unparalleled level of creative control in a fully synchronized VR setting.

Our goal was to blend the networking with the engine architecture itself, creating a general abstraction layer that solves common problems and provides them as various programming and engine primitives, with well-defined behaviors and interactions, as
well as implicit support for network replication and persistence.

The core of Neos is formed by building blocks that are equivalents of basic programming data structures, such as variables, references, arrays, lists, dictionaries, trees, or classes. The core engine functionality is built from these building blocks, as well as all other higher level behaviors, subsystems, tools, and interfaces, making none of them “special”.

This allows for quickly designing and implementing new subsystems, components, tools, or entity behaviors without need for any network programming (and dealing with bugs introduced by it), and offers automatic interoperability between each part of
the system, such as access to all properties from the scene inspector, or connecting them via the visual scripting language (which itself is built using the same building blocks).

Frooxius demonstrated many of the powerful set of in-world building tools to me, including a tool which allows you to view cross-sections of 3D models! Many people use these in-world tools to build worlds and content in NeosVR, which is also able to accept uploaded content created in a wide variety of external programs. I was told by the NeosVR team that they hope to introduce an in-world marketplace for user-generated content within the next six months or so.

One of our final stops on the guided tour was a huge, working model of an O’Neill cylinder, an outer-space settlement concept first proposed by American physicist Gerard K. O’Neill in his 1976 book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space.

Aegis Wolf with a smaller model of his O’Neill cylinder

The O’Neill cylinder world (jokingly called the O’Neos cylinder) actually has working radial gravity, which gets progressively weaker the closer you’re to the centre of the cylinder (so at the center, it’s nearly zero gravity).

The NeosVR team is choosing to focus on word-of-mouth promotion to advertise thier social VR platform, which has over 300 regular users, and usually has 50 to 60 people concurrently in-world at any one time, statistics which I thought were pretty good for a platform which has only been publicly available in beta test for two years!

You might be interested to learn that NeosVR is already making money! NeosVR is currently earning income in three ways:

I’d like to thank the entire Karel, Tomáš, and the NeosVR team for taking the time to show me some of the many applications of the platform, and answering my questions. Stay tuned for a future blogpost, where I will take a more in-depth look at educational uses of NeosVR by universities and other educational institutions. I am very much looking forward to spending a bit more time in NeosVR!

The NeosVR website

If you want to learn more about NeosVR, you can visit their website or their wiki, check out their Steam page, join their Discord server, or follow them on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. And, of course, you can always choose to support the project through their Patreon page (as I am).

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