The HTC Vive lip tracker dev-kit I integrated into NeosVR really adds a whole new level of expressivity to social VR. Never before [have] I had other people in VR telling me they like to see me smile when there’s something funny, or to go to sleep when I’m yawning!
This is so cool! Of course, most people in VR headsets use hand controllers of some sort to animate thier avatar’s arms and hands. Valve Index hand controllers can even animate individual fingers (although not all platforms can take advantage of this feature).
Many people have also been experimenting for years with using the HTC Vive “pucks” (on platforms such as VRChat, the old High Fidelity, and Sansar), to animate their avatar’s full bodies, attaching them to shoulders, waists, hips, knees, and feet. But adding mouth, lips (even tongue!) movements pushes the envelope even further, and these non-verbal expressions can add so much to conversations in social VR!
It should be noted here that the quest to animate your avatar’s face has been going on for quite some time now, with a variety of different solutions. For example, Sinespace sells a product called an Avatar Facial Driver, which works using your webcam to capture your facial expressions and play them on your avatar’s face (this is for a non-VR, desktop user, though). I blogged about this back in May of 2018.
Congratulations to Tomáš and the entire team at NeosVR for pushing the boundaries in avatar expression!
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!
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.
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:
They have a successful Patreon page, from which they now earn approximately US$5,700 per month. I recently joined at the $6-a-month patron level myself, which, among other benefits, gives me 25 GB of storage to store uploaded content, and 30 Neos Credits a month (which is their in-world currency).
NeosVR also offers commercial licences of their platform to companies such as Megavolt Services LLC.
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!
This is a list of the various Christmas events which are taking place this holiday season on the various social VR platforms and virtual worlds I cover on this blog. If you have an event that I have missed, please let me know and I will update this listing, thanks!
As usual, there is so much happening in Second Life around Christmastime that it is impossible to compile a full list!
Your best bet is to check the Events listing under Search; you can do a keyword search, or select events using the drop-down category menu in the upper right-hand corner of the Events window in Firestorm (for example, “Live Music” to catch a live performer’s show).
The official Second Life Destination Guide lists eight pages worth of winter attractions to visit.
Among many other club events happening throughout Second Life over the holidays, Bryce Sun is DJing on Christmas Day at the FMD Club, which bills itself “the premiere destination for Second Life’s sexiest and most fashionable residents”.
Please check the Sansar Events page for more details on these and other events during this holiday season.
Check the AltspaceVR Events Listing for all the news on what’s going on, including four separate VR Church Christmas services on Dec. 22nd: one at a time zone for Australians, a second at a time zone for Europeans, and two back-to-back services for North Americans.
The best place to find out what Christmas events are happening in the busy world of VRChat is the VRChat Events website, with an online calendar of events, and a link to join the VRChat Events Discord server.
Also, there is a brand new Winter category in the Worlds menu in VRChat, with places for you to explore!
VRChat is also home to the annual New Years Times Square, where you could run into just about anybody! It is described as a developer-made world with hundreds of posters from the VRChat community.
My source, Fionna, also tells me:
I will be hosting an event for the world builder community on New Year’s Eve as well, featuring a world made by Sentinel, which is a gorgeous Art Deco lounge.
Medra, an organizer of the NeosVR Creator Jam series of events in NeosVR, posted:
The holidays are almost upon us and the 30th Creator Jam…so it’s time for:
Creator Jam 30: 3rd Megajam & Winter Holiday Party
Sunday December 22nd Starts at 2 p.m. EST(11 a.m. PST/19:00 UTC).
As an anniversary and Holiday celebration come hang out exchanging gifts, dressing up, and voting on Christmas trees. This will be a party and Swap Meet. NeosVR is wonderful for people unloading their inventories. What a better way to be in the spirit of giving than for people to share what they have or made. If you have a cool avatar, share it! If you have a cool gadget, please share. Pack neat Logix snippets in adult beverages or prezzies. We will be be exploring all the previous nine Creator Jam worlds in a livestream with Nexulan.
Secret Santa gift exchange will be held during this party at 2:30 p.m. EST (11:30 a.m. PST/19:30 UTC) Even if you aren’t a part of the Secret Santa gift exchange feel free to give gifts to specific people or everyone.
Everyone is welcome. I look forward to seeing all!
Somnium Space is simultaneously saying goodbye both to 2019 and to the first version of their Steam client, with a Farewell Party on Dec. 30th with special guests Vivian Chazen (the host of The Hive VR) and musical artist Luke Reynolds:
Full-body tracking is not a new feature in social VR (VRChat, High Fidelity, and Sansar all already support it), but it’s still worthwhile to watch this video by Reactant VR of the full-body tracking in NeosVR:
The vlogger talks about how NeosVR lets you adjust every aspect of how tracking works to the specific dimensions of your avatar (a feature that other platforms like VRChat don’t offer yet). His setup consists of a Vive Pro Eye headset with a Modmic 5 microphone, plus eight Vive tracker “pucks” (on his chest, elbows, hips, knees, and feet), Valve Index controllers which track individual finger movemens, and a Vive wireless adapter so he is not encumbered by a VR headset cable. It’s quite amazing to me just how expressive his avatar can be!
NeosVR shows off that full-body tracking to good effect in this new music video, which also shows you a little bit of how you calibrate your avatar beforehand so its movements look as natural as possible:
Very cool! Also, effective from this blogpost forward, I will have a new blog category just for NeosVR. (I will try to add that new category to all my previous blogposts about NeosVR, when I have time.)