To Teleport or Not to Teleport: Teleporting Versus Walking in the Metaverse

Ever wish you could teleport in real life?
(Photo by Chris Briggs on Unsplash)

Earlier this week, I had a guided tour of the blockchain-based social VR platform Somnium Space, where I was informed by my tour guide that the virtual world had just implemented teleporting. Scattered throughout the one large, contiguous virtual landscape which comprises Somnium Space were teleporter hubs, where you could pull up a map, click on the teleporter hub you wanted to travel to, press a button, et voilà! You were instantly transported to your destination.

A teleporter hub in the central city square of Somnium Space (at night)
The red arrows indicate the location of teleporter hubs on the map

What makes Somnium Space unusual among metaverse platforms is that you cannot simply teleport from one place to another distant location; you either must make use of the provided teleporters, or walk/run/fly/swim to your destination. (Of course, you can certainly “short hop” using a limited form of teleporting, but that is only for shorter distances, not for instantly getting from one end of a large, contiguous landmass to another.)

In other words, the teleporter hubs of the Somnium Transportation System are set up much like a modern urban subway system, where you can only travel to a particular, pre-built subway station that is situated the nearest to your intended destination, and then walk the rest of the way. Many people might remember that in the very earliest days of Second Life, there were also teleporter hubs in the days before avatars could instantly teleport themselves from one location to another!

Another thing that sets Somnium Space apart from other social VR platforms is that there are only going to be so many “public” teleporter hubs. In face, some of these hubs are going to be auctioned off as NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), and the successful bidders with such a teleporter hub on their properties will be able to charge a cryptocurrency fee in order to use their teleporters! (In other words, they would operate much the same as a real-life toll road or highway.)

Closely intertwined with the idea of teleporting vs. walking is the layout of a metaverse platform. Is it one large contiguous landmass, like Somnium Space, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, and (to a certain extent) Second Life? Or is it a collection of smaller worlds, like VRChat, Rec Room, Sansar, and Sinespace? If it is the former, then means of transportation (and ease of access to transportation) becomes more important. If it is the latter, then another tool which many of the newer social VR platforms offer is the ability to create a portal—either temporary or permanent— between two worlds. (Of course, you could consider a teleporter hub a portal.)

So, keeping all this in mind (particularly the distinction between SHORT HOP teleporting and teleporting to a DISTANT location), we can create a chart outlining the transportation affordances of the various metaverse platforms:

Name of Platform (Layout)Walk/Run? *Distance
Teleport?
**
Create Portals?
Second Life (mostly one contiguous landmass, with private islands)YESYESYES
Sinespace (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Sansar (separate worlds)YESNO (but you can create teleport hubs)YES
VRChat (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Rec Room (separate worlds)YESNOYES
AltspaceVR (separate worlds)YESNOYES
NeosVR (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Cryptovoxels (one contiguous landmass with some islands) YESNO (you can add coordinates to a URL, though)YES
Decentraland (one contiguous landmass) YESYES (/goto X,Y)NO
Somnium Space (one contiguous landmass)YESNO (but there are teleport hubs)NO (unless you count teleport hubs)
* – Can a user walk/run/fly/swim from one location to another? This includes SHORT HOP teleporting.
** – Can a user personally choose to teleport from one location to a second, DISTANT location?
† – Can a user create a temporary or permanent portal from one location to another?

Obviously, all metaverse platforms offer some form of personal locomotion for your avatar (walk, run, fly, swim, short-hop teleporting, etc.). This is standard.

It is also clear from this table that the metaverse platforms which consist of many smaller worlds (Sinespace, Sansar, VRChat, Rec Room, AltspaceVR, and NeosVR) all prefer the creation of temporary and permanent portals to allowing users to teleport great distances on their own steam. On the other hand, all the social VR platforms and virtual worlds which consist of one contiguous landmass tend to allow some form of teleportation across great distances.

You will notice that Cryptovoxels uses a rather brute-force method of “teleporting”, which consists of appending the coordinates to the end of the URL you enter into your web browser client (which are much the same as the coordinates which form part of the SLURLs used in Second Life, but not nearly as convenient in my opinion).

Transportation affordances are yet another way to classify metaverse platforms in my continuing effort to create a taxonomy of social VR platforms and virtual worlds.

So, what do you think? Have I made an error in my table? Do you have an opinion about the benefits of teleporting and portals versus walking around and exploring the landscape? I’d love to hear your opinions, so please leave a comment, thank you!

A Vive Facial Tracker Update: Good News and Bad News

Well, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that have attached my Vive Facial Tracker to my Valve Index VR headset, set it up, and got it working! The bracket I ordered arrived last week via FedEx from Japan (here’s the page I ordered from, although by now you I suspect you should be able to find several other models of brackets via the internet!), and last night I put it all together. Here’s what it looks like:

The bad news? Well, it started even before I installed the Vive Facial Tracker, when I took my weeklong course in content creation in NeosVR, taught by sirkitree and Medra (highly recommended, by the way). I kept crashing out of the classroom, and Medra finally set up a private tutorial session with me in my home world, which worked fine.

But, ever since I set up the facial tracker, I have been unable to stay in NeosVR for longer than ten minutes before crashing out! It would appear that I am bumping up against the limits of the CPU and GPU on my high-end gaming computer, which I bought four years ago.

I will be reaching out to NeosVR for support, and perhaps we can troubleshoot the issue. I did turn my refresh rate down from 120Hz to 90Hz, which is supposed to help with any GPU strain, but I am still stuttering and crashing. Unfortunately, I was thus far been unable to take pictures or video of my avatar in a mirror in NeosVR, but if I succeed, I will share them here with an update to this blogpost!

It is disappointing, but frankly I knew that at some point, for some app, I would reach the upper limits of what my PC is capable. So perhaps it’s time for Ryan to start shopping for a new computer (I already have the store picked out, the same place I bought this computer, which has a stellar reputation for both sales and support). In the meantime, I will keep testing.

Keep your fingers crossed and wish me luck!

UPDATE April 22nd, 2021: It would appear that, alas, the CPU on the computer I bought four years ago is the bottleneck here. Apparently, both Neos and the Vive Facial Tracker are very CPU intensive, and even though I have a good graphics card (a NVIDIA GeForce GTX1080), I will probably have to either upgrade my CPU and add more memory, or simply trade up to a newer, faster, more powerful computer.

I’d like to thank the staff at NeosVR (especially Shift, their Quality Control Lead), and the ever-helpful community on the Neos Discord server for all their assistance in troubleshooting. Thanks, guys! For now, I will be packing my Vive Facial Tracker and its Japanese bracket (which is, thankfully, detachable) and stowing it away until I can upgrade my PC. *sigh*

An Amazing Demonstration of Full-Body Tracking (Including the Eyes and Mouth!) in NeosVR

I found this video so amazing, that I asked the creator (June) if I could share it with you, my blog readers! Here’s a link to his original tweet.

Every single movement of the shark avatar in this one-and-a-half minute machinima (i.e. a video shot in a virtual world), right down to eyes and the mouth, is controlled directly by the user! Even more amazing, he was the sole cameraman!

The eyes are controlled by where the user looks (in a Vive Pro Eye VR headset); the mouth and lower face are controlled by the Vive Facial Tracker attached to the bottom of the headset; the hands and fingers are controlled using Valve Knuckles controllers; and the movements of the lower part of the body are controlled by Vive Pucks attached to the body at the hips and feet!

June says:

Did a full performance of “Crazy for Me” in NeosVR! Everything was recorded in real time audio, tracking, camera work, everything! All within the NeosVR game engine. This was done with 3 2.0 Vive Trackers, a Vive Pro Eye, Vive Facial Tracker, and Valve Index Controllers! This took about 17 takes to get it just right! Feel free to post about this anywhere as long as you link the video with any one of my socials!

I swear, if people in Second Life knew that they could control their entire avatar like this, there would be a stampede to buy VR headsets and head to NeosVR! There’s zero need for animation overrides or any prerecorded animations!

If you’re interested in seeing more of this, you can follow June on Twitter! If you want more information on NeosVR, you can visit their website here, or click here to see all the blogposts tagged NeosVR which I have written to date.

I have finally received a bracket I ordered from Japan to properly attach my Vive Facial Tracker to my Valve Index VR headset, so I am quite looking forward to being able to animate my lower face and mouth soon! (No eye animation or lower body animation for me yet, though…maybe someday!)

One very witty person with whom I had shared this video said:

I aspire to one day be the most tracked human in VR (but then again all Quest users are already there).

Ooh! NURSE!!! Shots fired! 😉

Editorial: Some Housekeeping Announcements

First, I have decided to suspend the “indefinite hiatus” business, effective immediately. I’ve noticed that I have been writing up and posting at least one blogpost a day lately, which is a sign that I’m feeling less depressed.

Also, on Friday I just gave my presentation on acedia during the coronavirus pandemic at the 10th Annual Mental Health Symposium hosted by Virtual Ability group in Second Life, which was a great success (you can watch my presentation here starting at the 6-hour-and-4-minute mark). I also finished a weeklong intensive content creation training course over in NeosVR on Friday, and I am eager to write more about Neos in the coming weeks and months!

So we’re back in business!

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

One thing that I have learned during my “indefinite hiatus” is that pretty much NOTHING can stop me from blogging about Second Life! So you can expect my coverage to continue, even as I continue to write more about other social VR platforms and virtual worlds.

Remember that I have replaced almost all of my blogging about Second Life freebies and bargains with notices posted to the new in-world RyanSchultz.com Steals, Deals & Freebies group! More information on this brand new SL group here. (Just do a keyword search for “ryanschultz”—all one word—under Groups and you’ll find my new group easily. It costs only L$50 to join, which means that I can now call myself a professional freebie fashionista! 😉 )

Moving forward, I will be focusing on two categories of worlds on my blog:

  1. Those that pay me for sponsored advertising (e.g. Sinespace) will get highest priority; in such cases I will always include a standard disclaimer at the bottom of the blogpost that it is sponsored, and by whom (my advertising rates are here); and
  2. I will also be writing more often about those platforms that intrigue and excite me. For example, I have just spent a week learning how to create content in NeosVR, and I can’t wait to show you everything I have learned!

So, fasten your seatbelts—we are off on another adventure!

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash