How You Can Catch the MetaMovie Project’s Upcoming Show, Alien Rescue, for FREE!

The MetaMovie project is a live virtual reality cinematic adventure, which I have been following since the very beginning (you can read all my old MetaMovie blogposts here). The project first began on the now-shuttered High Fidelity social VR platform, and has since moved to their new home, NeosVR*.

According to the official press release for their latest production, called Alien Rescue:

The MetaMovie presents; Alien Rescue, an innovative project conceived by Jason Moore, in which the user embodies the starring role in a LIVE-performed Virtual Reality cinematic adventure. The project [was] selected by the Venice International Film Festival [which took] place online from September 2nd till 12th, 2020.

The MetaMovie project is an ongoing series of experiments exploring immersive, interactive storytelling inside the virtual reality metaverse. It combines cinema, video games, interactive theater, and role playing activities like D&D to create an entirely new way to experience a story: from the inside. In a MetaMovie you don’t just watch the story, you’re part of it.

As ‘the Hero’ you are the lead player. Your co-stars are played by live actors who lead you on an immersive and cinematic adventure and you have the agency to do or say what you want, and even affect the outcome of the story. Curious, but not exactly a hero? Experience the story as an ‘Eyebot’ without needing to interact with the other characters.

The world of live immersive work is upcoming. The Venice International Film Festival selected three of these projects for this year’s VR Expanded edition. Besides the fact that these experiences offer consumers live entertainment from the comfort of their own home, it also creates job opportunities for actors all over the world. Something that’s more relevant than ever since we’re dealing with COVID-19.

Here’s the two-minute teaser trailer for Alien Rescue!

And here’s the best part: you can take advantage of a special free offer to help iron out the last few bugs in performances of Alien Rescue before ticket sales to the general public! Jason Moore left the following message on the RyanSchultz.com Discord:

I’m Jason, the creator and director of the MetaMovie Presents: Alien Rescue. Alien Rescue is a live immersive asymmetric PCVR/Desktop experience that puts you in the middle of an action packed VR movie where you role play with five live actors. We’ve performed at the Venice Biannale VR festival and won a Special Mention award, and we are gearing up for our public launch in a few months.

Currently we are running preview shows to squash the bugs and I’m here offering free tickets for some upcoming shows! Please come check us out, give us your feedback, and help us bug test!

We run on NeosVR, which is available for free on Steam. The days/times of the shows are:

• Saturday August 28th, 2:00pm ET
• Saturday, September 4th, 2:00pm ET
• Saturday, September 18, 2:00pm ET
• Saturday, October 2nd, 2:00pm ET

Click the link below to go to our website, where you can select the day of the show you want. Then you’ll get taken to Eventbrite and you can use the Discount Codes below to get your free ticket.

Please only take a ticket if you are sure you will use it. Please only take 1 ticket, not multiple tickets. And please note we are still working out the bugs…..

Discount Codes:
• Saturday, August 28th, 2:00pm ET Sidekick2808
• Saturday, September 4th, 2:00pm ET Sidekick0409
• Saturday, September 18th, 2:00pm ET Sidekick1809
• Saturday, October 2nd, 2:00pm ET Sidekick0210

Copy your discount code, then go here: https://www.themetamovie.com/tickets/

Thank you for your support and helping us test Alien Rescue!

If you are interested in learning more about the MetaMovie project, please visit their website, join their Discord server, or follow the project on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.


*If you’re interested, I interviewed Jason Moore about the MetaMovie project, back when it was still on High Fidelity, in the following episode of season one of my show, the Metaverse Newscast:

UPDATED! Using NeosVR to Teach Courses at the University of Sydney

Hamish MacDougall is a professor at the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia, who has been keen to use the innovative social VR platform NeosVR as part of his teaching. Hamish has a long history of working in virtual reality, as noted in this 2017 profile of him and his work:

Hamish McDougall looks like a physical embodiment of the cyberpunk dream. Sporting a long black ponytail with a sleek undercut, and black clothing, he looks like a character ripped directly from an 80s sci-fi epic, set in a post industrial dystopia. McDougall runs the Virtual Reality Openlab, a sprawling tech lab designed to build experiments in the virtual world…

For the last four years, the lab has operated under the Sydney Human Factors Research group, an organization within the Psychology department. Although it has a wide field of study, it looks primarily at the Vestibular system, which is a sensory complex in the inner ear that is in charge of your sense of spatial orientation and balance…

So far the biggest ‘deliverable’ to come from the human factors lab’s four years of existence is their work developing a virtual reality therapy system for patients of vestibular disorders, who suffer limited inner ear functions. This means that they not only have issues balancing, but can also suffer dizziness and unease sitting still. As Hamish points out, among all persons with sensory impairments, those with vestibular disorders may be the most inhibited in terms of their daily life.

While the system invented by the team doesn’t cure vestibular disease, it does allow patients to improve their balance and mobility. In the first 20 patients to use the program, feedback received from the patients showed that 100% of patients that had used the program had seen some improvement from the using of the program.

Since 2017, Hamish is one of many educators around the world who has embraced NeosVR as a teaching platform, using it to conduct a class on Virtual Reality Therapy in virtual reality last year during the coronavirus pandemic:

Virtual spiders and skyscrapers are among the tools being used to teach University of Sydney students during the COVID-19 shutdown, as a virtual reality laboratory in the School of Psychology has been transformed into a classroom for learning about a range of physical and psychological conditions.

Typically used for research and selective teaching on virtual reality therapies for conditions including phobias, PTSD, pain, and eating disorders, the lab is now being used solely to teach these therapies to undergraduate and postgraduate students.

“Given in-person face-to-face teaching has been suspended, I decided to lend VR headsets to my students so they can continue to ‘attend’ my seminar series on Virtual Reality Therapy,” Associate Professor Hamish MacDougall said.

The Virtual Reality Therapy class took students to the World Trade Center bombing as part of their discussion about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Image source: the Sydney Human Factors Research Lab

Associate Professor MacDougall, who directs the University’s Sydney Human Factors Research Group, begins each lesson with a student-led literature discussion. Students then discuss the immersive stimuli that virtually surrounds them.

In a lesson on phobias, for example, students handled virtual spiders and looked down from the roofs of tall buildings. In a lesson on eating disorders, students could adjust the body-mass index for their own avatar (digital character) and track their eye movements to reveal preferences for healthy and unhealthy foods.

But the School of Psychology is not the only group at the University of Sydney working with NeosVR! The School of Geosciences is using the social VR platform to build a virtual campus:

The virtual world…is being built in NEOS VR. It is made of a collection of 3D assets, some I created many years ago in Sketchup, others bought on various market places (cgtrader, Sketchfab etc), and others build and programmed directly in NEOS. Most 3D rock samples and 3D outcrops comes from various authors and were downloaded from Sketchfab.com…

The fully functional geological compass was designed in NEOS and programmed using NEOS’ LogiX visual scripting language. While building virtual worlds in NEOS, I often receive the unsolicited help of many curious NEOS’ users. TinBin was kind enough to fetch his friend H3BO3 and LeonClement who helped with the programing of my virtual compass. My colleague A/Prof Hamish McDougall (School of Psychology at the University of Sydney) added the dynamic ocean to my etopo models, and VRxist improved the display the earthquake dataset. GearBell explained to me how to optimize my world for fast download. I am also grateful to Tomas Mariancik (aka Frooxius), head developer and creator of NEOS VR, for his availability and willingness to help me and other newbies getting started with NEOS.

The Virtual Campus of the School of Geoscience at the University of Sydney in NeosVR (image source)

You can view several videos of their ongoing work in NeosVR on this webpage.

People like Hamish MacDougall are effective ambassadors for the use of social VR platforms like NeosVR! I look forward to seeing where the University of Sydney goes from here in their innovative use of virtual reality in teaching.

UPDATE August 13th, 2021: I had a text chat with Hamish via Discord, and I quote part of what he told me here:

Re. the class in Virtual Reality Therapy – yes that was taught in Neos. We started in the lab with headsets connected to a dozen powerful desktop PCs but after the first few weeks all face-to-face teaching at the University was discontinued due to the pandemic. We hastily handed out Quests and basic instructions for connecting from home. Without any preparation I though this had little chance of success but worth a shot. I would have been happy if just one Psychology student could connect and was amazed when they all did!

This advanced seminar series (10 x 2 hours) for Psychology Honours students covered VR Therapy for Phobias, PTSD, OCD, Eating Disorders, Autism, Problem Gambling, Substance Abuse, Dementia, Stroke, and Pain so it made a lot of sense to do it in VR so the students could experience all the applications. Neos (and its neuro-diverse community) also provided the opportunity to invite people with lived experience to tell and show the students all about their conditions, so I think this was quite compelling. For example, the guest for Autism passed around items from her collection of stim toys and took us to one of her safe places. The guest for Stroke demonstrated the avatar we had prepared with yoked arm movements (where the arm on the parallelized side appears to follow the arm on the healthy side). The chap saved a copy to his inventory and came back a few weeks later saying that using it had really helped with his recovery!

Anyway, Neos is amazing for education and research – the ‘killer app’ for academics in my opinion…We have demonstrated hundreds of VR applications without the skills and time that would be required in Unity or Unreal.

Thanks, Hamish!

The New Ready Player Me Hub: The Ability to Import Your Avatar to Any Supported Platform!

An example of the avatars you can create using the new Ready Player Me Hub (source)

Wolf3D’s Ready Player Me, the customizable avatar system I have written about before here, here, and here, has issued a brand new update! In the email I received yesterday:

The Ready Player Me Hub lets you create one or multiple avatars and use them in all apps that support Ready Player Me. With one click, you can import your existing avatar or create a new one and add it to apps like VRChat, LIV, and Somnium Space.

According to the official blogpost announcing the update (which I recommend you read in full):

Ever since we launched Ready Player Me back in May last year, our goal was to create a cross-game avatar platform for the metaverse – one that gives you a consistent digital identity everywhere you and your avatar go. Think of it as a passport that gives you access to thousands of virtual worlds. Today, we are making the metaverse passport real with the launch of the Ready Player Me Hub

When you sign in to the Ready Player Me Hub, you can see all your avatars and connect them to your favorite applications in one click. To import your avatar into a partner app that uses Ready Player Me, all you need to do is sign in with your account.

VentureBeat reports:

Wolf3D’s platform allows users to travel between video games, virtual reality experiences, and other apps using a single virtual identity, said cofounder Timmu Tõke in an interview with GamesBeat.

“We’re trying to build a cross-game service to enable a lot of virtual worlds to exist,” Tõke said. “We see more people spending more and more time in virtual worlds. The metaverse is kind of happening around us. But most of it isn’t happening in one world or one app. It’s a network of many different worlds that people visit for work and play and collaboration. And doesn’t really make sense for the end user to create a new avatar identity for each of those experiences. It makes sense to have one portable entity that travels with you across many different games and apps and experiences.”

In fact, 300 games, apps, and social VR/virtual worlds now support the Ready Player Me avatar system, including the following platforms (all links below redirect you to blogposts I have previously written about each platform, which might be somewhat out-of-date, as I am covering so many different platforms on this blog!):

You can peruse the complete list of Ready Player Me partners here.

If you are interested in trying out the Ready Player Me Hub to create an avatar (either from a selfie or from scratch), you can access it here. You have a choice of making either a full-body avatar or a head-and-shoulders avatar:

The Ready Player Me Hub starting screen

When your avatar is ready, simply click Next in the top right corner of the website. You will be redirected to the new Hub interface. To save your avatar, click Claim now and sign in with your email address. You will get a one-time login code that you need to type in the Hub. You can use the Hub to connect your avatars to available apps in the Discover Apps tab. To import your avatar into a new app, all you need to do is click Connect avatar (some applications may require a few extra steps).

We are getting ever closer to the dream of having a consistent avatar which you can use in multiple social VR platforms! Be sure to give the Ready Player Me Hub a try.

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!