UPDATED! Hoppin’: A Brief Introduction

Today I received the following message via the Contact Me page on my blog:

Hi Ryan,

I wanted to reach out as I think our technology could make for a great article on your platform. We have the first Social VR platform that allows for multi-user immersive remote teleportation using 360° videos.

Companies can use this to promote key destinations and experiences by facilitating guided location-based VR meetings and conferences. As a user, you can download Hoppin’ to meet friends, family or prospective clients at the Eiffel tower, European beaches, ski slopes and any other location or experience that is uploaded to our platform. Hoppin’ also unleashes powerful capabilities for enterprise remote presence, revolutionizing the way we do global sales, tours, surveying and training.

It gives businesses the opportunity to cut through any financial and mobility barriers to showcase a location and build preliminary interest towards what they are seeing. This is useful across any industry that would benefit from teleporting their stakeholders directly into their location and meeting with them in-(virtual)-person, in a controlled pre-recorded environment or in a live video stream.

I’d be happy to jump on a quick call to give you a demo (or ideally we can even meet in the application if you have an Oculus Go!)

So I went over and took a gander at their website:

Here’s the requisite promotional video:

What sets Hoppin’ apart from previous products along the same lines (such as DiveReal, which used 360-degree photographs) is that Hoppin’ supports 360-degree video. Now, again, there are already lots of social VR platforms that already support 360-degree video (such as the educational platform ENGAGE, and Sansar), so this is not something that is terribly new here. The “teleporting” feature mentioned here (really, all you’re doing is loading another video), has also been a feature of many social VR platforms and virtual worlds for years (in VRChat and Sansar, for example, you can easily drop a portal to have your friends all join you in a particular location).

Also, the only VR headset that Hoppin’ currently supports is the Oculus Go, which of course is slowly being phased out by Facebook as part of a wholesale move towards more powerful headsets. If you already have an Oculus Go headset, you can certainly download Hoppin’ from the Oculus Store and give it a try. I don’t, and personally, I really don’t see much of the appeal of this product (although I am probably not the target market here; this seems to be aimed at families, friends, and businesses who just want to meet up together in a 360-degree video).

Here’s a second, brief promotional video showing some of the features:

But if this sort of thing is up your alley, visit their website, and check them out. They are also active on various social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. And, of course, I will be adding Hoppin’ to my list of social VR platforms and virtual worlds!

UPDATE June 16th, 2020: Yesterday I received an email from Joaquim Miro, a founding partner and CGO of Hoppin’, regarding my review of Hoppin’ World:

First and foremost thanks for writing about Hoppin’ and giving your honest review.

I wanted to ask, do you have an Oculus Go? We will be on the Quest and other headsets soon, but for this quarter there’s a strong chance we will still be only the Go, and soon have a WebXR version…

I believe your generally negative review is not very fair, as unlike Sansar or Engage, our user interface is not made in the same manner, does not focus on the same use cases, and creates an easy method for companies, 360 studios, and any users to easily upload 360 videos/pictures and then be able to give live walk-throughs of real-world areas, together within the space. We do not have to recreate full solutions for companies each time like Engage, and it is all in real-world footage vs being mostly in virtual location.

Furthermore, the videos can be pre-recorded as you mentioned, but they can also be live. If you had to compare we would be closer to NextVR or Avatour, rather than Engage or Sansar… However unlike any of those companies, we are currently completely bootstrapped and will be going for our seed round over the summer. This is why I was mentioning we are the first in this field, since it’s a relatively new market in the grand scheme of things.

Well, as I said up top, I don’t agree with Joaquim that this is so “new” (although I must admit that I haven’t yet heard of any platform that supports live 360-degree video, so I grant them that).

I’ve signed up for a group tour of Hoppin’ as part of the iLRN 2020 conference later this month, so hopefully I will have an opportunity to experience the platform as part of a group (however, if it is still Oculus Go-based only, then I will have to miss that too). I find the choice to launch on the Oculus Go rather than aim for the much more popular Oculus Quest to be an odd one, personally. It limits their market.

UPDATED! Remotely: Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual World, This Time with a Outer Space Twist!

Someone on the Ryanschultz.com Discord server alerted me to yet another platform which is intended for the corporate market, to support remote work teams, with the rather clever name of Remotely:

What sets Remotely apart from all the other remote workteam platforms out there is that all interactions take place with astronaut avatars, on alien planets!

Another thing that Remotely seems to have nailed down are the high number of integrations it has with other office software, which seems to be courtesy of a partnership with another company called Tandem.

Their website boasts an impressive 61 integrations with tools such as Microsoft 365, G Suite, and Slack, with a promise to soon include video chat in the mix:

This is not a platform which supports virtual reality; it’s a virtual world that you access and navigate via your flatscreen computer desktop (here’s an example image from their fairly extensive user documentation):

I should note that the idea of having business meetings in exotic locations is hardly new to Remotely (for example, Dream lets you hold meetings in a cave!). Frankly, this is sort of like holding team meetings in Second Life, only you have far, far fewer options for avatars to use and worlds to meet in. Aside from the high number of software integrations that Remotely currently offers, and the admittedly cute and appropriate name, there’s not much to set it apart from all the other YARTVRA platforms out there, in what is rapidly becoming an oversaturated market (for reference, here is my most recently-updated list of YARTVRA platforms).

In summary, I don’t think there’s enough to the outer space gimmick to reel in business users, many of whom may not see the need for such a product, even during a coronavirus pandemic when everybody is working from home. In my opinion, there are now way, waaay too many products chasing after potential corporate users, which means that those platforms whose companies can more effectively advertise themselves (and promote the features that set them apart from the competition) will prevail.

Another addition to my comprehensive list of social VR platforms and virtual worlds. If you want more information on Remotely, you can visit their website, or follow them on social media: Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Thank you to fyodorovvv for the heads up!

UPDATE June 13th, 2020: I mistaken tagged this blogpost with the tag YARTVRA, which of course it isn’t (it doesn’t support virtual reality), so I have removed the tag and renamed this blogpost accordingly.

Pandemic Diary: May 21st, 2020

Well, according to the calendar, I am now in day 67 of my self-imposed isolation in my apartment, working from home for my employer, the University of Manitoba Libraries. I have not set foot in a supermarket since March 16th, and I have not set foot in a pharmacy since January 30th, choosing instead to have my groceries and prescription medications delivered when I come close to running out. Aside from a few short trips to my office at the university to pick up some papers, my office chair, my Oculus Rift VR headset (as an emergency backup), and my keyboard and wireless mouse (also as backups), I have stayed at home and helped flatten the curve.

I consider myself fortunate to live in a province (Manitoba) where, to date, we have only had 290 cases of COVID-19 so far, in sharp contrast to the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec, and the sea of red that is the United States:

We here in Manitoba have truly benefited from the fact that we live in a relatively geographically isolated area of North America, while the coronavirus pandemic hit other parts of the world first, giving our provincial and city governments valuable time to prepare and implement strict social distancing restrictions. While Canada’s chief public health officer has admitted that they should have closed the borders sooner, Canada is in a much better position overall than many other countries, particularly the United States, Russia, and Brazil, which have seen a surge in cases due to haphazard or even non-existent government responses to the crisis.

I have already explained, via this blog, that I have several underlying health conditions at the age of 56: I am significantly overweight, and I have hypertension, type II diabetes, and asthma. All four conditions (which, of course, are interrelated) put me at much higher risk for a severe, possibly even fatal, case of COVID-19 if I should become infected with this novel coronavirus. And it means that I will probably be among the last group of University of Manitoba Libraries employees to return to the campus. I could be in self-imposed lockdown until there is a vaccine.

I have made peace with this fact, and I have now settled into a kind of routine in working from home, becoming more comfortable with virtual staff meetings held in Webex and Microsoft Teams (our university seems to have largely abandoned its use of Zoom).

The librarians of the Sciences and Technology Library are currently hard at work developing a for-credit university course in information literacy for undergraduate science students, which is to start in September 2020. The University of Manitoba has announced that all its classes in the fall term will be taught remotely, and the head of our libraries system has told us that she does not expect us to return to our physical library offices before January of 2021. The science librarians had been originally planning to deliver our information literacy course in-person and in the classroom, but we are now pivoting to package and deliver the course remotely using Webex.

As part of my little one-man crusade to destigmatize mental illness, I have been honest and up-front with my blog readers about my own struggles with depression and anxiety during the pandemic. In addition to taking antidepressant and anti-anxiety prescription medication, I also have biweekly sessions via telephone with my psychiatrist. On the whole, while I still have some bad days, I am doing pretty well.

You might be interested to learn that, in addition to the above-mentioned supports, I have also entered into a peer mentor/support relationship with a friend of a trusted friend, who has experience as a peer counselor in a healthcare setting and has worked as a volunteer at a telephone crisis hotline in the past. We actually meet up every couple of weeks or so in my Linden Home in Second Life!

I log in as my avatar, she logs in as her avatar, and we have a conversation using voice chat. This is an opportunity to get things off my chest and gain another person’s perspective on my mental health issues, and where I can even talk how I sometimes use Second Life to cope with my self-isolation, without having to provide the kind of contextual, background explanation I would need to make to a real-world counselor! I can also ping her via Discord anytime I feel I need to vent in a safe, supported space.

This person is currently considering setting up a peer listening/support service in Second Life, and I am a sort of guinea pig for her, a test to see how well that would work. She’s also pretty new to Second Life, still working her way up the steep learning curve and getting her bearings, and I have shared many of the things I have learned from my 14 years of experience in SL with her—like the concepts of alts, furries, Gorean role-play, and the absolutely critical importance of ankle lock 😉 .

So, how are you holding up during the pandemic? Feel free to join the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, where we have a fairly active -chat channel, or just leave a comment to this blogpost. I’d love to know how you are doing!

I Now Have 800 Followers on Twitter!

I logged into Twitter this morning to discover that I have hit a milestone: I now have 800 people following me! I realize that I am nowhere near people such as Kent Bye of the Voices of VR podcast with 24,000 followers, or Robert Scoble with his whopping 407,000 followers (both of whom follow me and sometimes retweet my tweets), but I still think that it’s something.

My handle on Twitter is Quiplash— short for “quipster whiplash”.  I am well-known in both real and virtual worlds for my snappy comebacks and my sarcasm! All of my blogposts here on the RyanSchultz.com blog are automatically posted to my Twitter feed when I hit the Publish button on WordPress.

At the moment, my Twitter feed is a rather bizarre mix of a few friends and coworkers from real life, a lot of people who work in and post about virtual reality, social VR/AR and virtual worlds—and a slew of infectious disease experts whom I started following because of the coronavirus pandemic! As I am trying to cut back on the amount of COVID-19 news I am consuming, I may decide to start pruning the list of people whom I follow on Twitter, to remove many of the latter group. While Twitter has afforded me a fascinating window into what the doctors and researchers talk about during the pandemic, all the relentless news and commentary on the continuing global public health crisis tends to wear me down after a while.

If you want to check out my Twitter profile, it is here. The picture I used for the banner image in my profile is from IDIA Lab’s world 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair, which you can visit and explore in Sansar.

And I’d like to thank all the people who think that I am interesting enough to follow! If you want to join my patrons who choose to support me financially for the blogging and video work I do, I would love you even more! Here’s my Patreon page, or if you prefer, you can simply buy me a coffee, making a one-time US$3 donation. Whether or not you choose to express your appreciation by supporting me financially for the work I do, thank you for reading this blog and following me on Twitter! Your support means the world to me.

Thank you for your support!
(Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay)