Why Women Don’t Like Social VR: Interview with Jessica Outlaw

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Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Enrico Speranza in my RyanSchultz.com Facebook group alerted me to a very interesting podcast put out by ResearchVR, who describe themselves as follows:

We are three Cognitive Scientists discussing Virtual Reality and Cognitive Research, Industry News, and Design Implications! We actively research different aspects of the field, and are involved in various companies related to the topic of VR. With this podcast, we hope to use our commentary to bridge the gap between news and established science. We break down complex topics, discuss the current trends and their economical impacts, and broadcast our views on VR.

The podcast episode in question was an in-depth, 1 hour 15 minute interview with Jessica Outlaw:

Behavioral Scientist Jessica Outlaw is an outspoken Social Scientist in the field of VR User Experience Design. She recently published an Inductive Qualitative study with Beth Duckles, PhD about the experiences of “Millennial, tech-savvy women” in Social VR applications (Altspace, High Fidelity, Facebook Spaces, etc).

In this episode, we talk embodied cognition, implicit biases, gender differences in social behavior and navigation in an unfamiliar environment, as well as the questions the paper raises up about inclusivity and approachability in design.

This is a long, wide-ranging interview touching on a lot of topics. Of particular note is what Jessica has to say about her research on women’s experiences in social VR applications. She wanted to know what tech-savvy younger women, new to social VR, had to say about their experiences.

Most of them found the social dynamics to be very disconcerting. The women had no idea what the social norms and expectations were in the social VR experiences they visited over a thirty-minute period (Rec Room, AltspaceVR, Facebook Spaces). Many women felt unsafe; some women felt that their personal spaces were invaded by other avatars. Talking to another person in social VR wasn’t seen as an attractive alternative to other forms of communication.

One of the four recommendations Jessica makes in her research report is that privacy must be the default in social VR applications, for women to feel safe. Another recommendation was to make social VR enticing and fun to do, and let the community form around their interests, as this leads to better behaviour overall.

Near the end of the podcast, Jessica and the ResearchVR co-hosts discuss a recent news story where a woman was harassed in a VR application called QuiVR.

I was also interested to hear that Jessica also did some work on a project for High Fidelity last year, around the question of what makes people feel welcome in an online community, and what’s appealing to people.

Here’s a link to the ResearchVR podcast. And here’s a link to a card series on Medium that outlines Jessica’s research findings, with quotes from the women interviewed. You can also request that Jessica’s full research report be emailed to you at her website.

Jessica also talked about her follow-up study, a user survey where she got over 600 responses. I’ll be very interested to read what she learns from her ongoing social VR research.

Drax Interviews Dr. Jeremy Bailenson on the Impact of Virtual Reality on Society

Jeremy Bailenson 16 Feb 2018
Jeremy Bailenson’s Avatar Being Interviewed in Drax’s Basement

Today, Draxtor Despres interviewed Dr. Jeremy Bailenson, who is a professor of communication at Stanford University and founding director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab. He has written a newly-published book titled Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do, which is an in-depth look at virtual reality and how it can be harnessed to improve our everyday lives. Jeremy said that this interview was the longest time he had ever spent so far in a social VR app!

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Drax Interviews Jeremy

Among many other things, Drax and Jeremy discussed:

  • Treatment of victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (e.g. 9/11 survivors) using virtual reality.
  • How immersive social VR makes people behave towards each other in a more social manner (use of gestures, etc.). Research seems to indicate that VR tends to change behaviours in a positive way.
  • When training a procedural skill, VR tends to outperform simply watching a video. But researchers to date are not seeing gains in STEM education in a VR headset versus non-VR-based learning.

All in all, it was a great interview! Ebbe Altberg, the CEO of Linden Lab (the company behind Second Life and Sansar), joined the interview at the very end.

Here’s the YouTube video of the interview:

Decorating Your Mark.Space Apartment

Mark.Space is a Russian company which bills itself, according to its white paper, “an open source platform for the creation of 3D- and VR- compatible online spaces (sites) and objects, powered by Blockchain”. Like Decentraland, another blockchain-based virtual world, they are issuing a cryptocurrency in an initial coin offering (ICO) called the MRK.

You can actually go and visit a browser-based demo of Mark.Space at this address:  https://demo.mark.space/, where you can point and click your way through a simulated shopping mall, among other places. There’s not much to see or do, yet. You use your arrow keys or click the mouse to move around, left-clicking and dragging the mouse to rotate your view. You do get an annoying white screen as the scene redraws every time you click your mouse to move around. It’s all 360-degree photographs.

On their Telegram chat, which I recently joined, they announced that they were having a Best Apartment contest, where they were giving out prizes to the people who had done the best job of decorating their free apartments, and sharing the resulting pictures on social media. So I thought I would give it a try.

Here’s what “decorating your apartment” actually consists of:

  1. Choosing a 360-degree photo which represents your empty apartment (walls, windows, floor and ceiling). Not a real three-dimensional space.
  2. Dropping and dragging flat images of furniture around your apartment. Yes, that’s right, there are no actual three-dimensional objects, just pictures. The menu does let you “rotate” them, which essentially means flipping the image from left to right.

Here, I shot a one-minute video of me decorating my Mark.Space apartment, so you can see for yourself:

Rather an underwhelming experience. I think I’ll check back in six months to see if anything has progressed since then. If you’re interested, you can visit my apartment in your web browser.

Lots of Events This Week in Sansar!

As you can see from this screenshot from the Sansar Atlas page, there’s no shortage of events happening this week in Sansar! Ten events in total!

Events this week in Sansar 12 Feb 2018

Visit the Sansar Atlas page at the link above, for more details on each of these events. Of particular note is a first-ever Marvelous Designer workshop this evening! Glad to see it.

New Facebook and Google+ Groups for RyanSchultz.com

For those people who prefer to get their news via social media, I have been maintaining two communities, one on Facebook and the other on Google+, where I’ve been cross-posting most blogposts I made to the Sansar Newsblog.

I have now shut down both of those groups, and in their place, I have created two new groups. Here are the links for the RyanSchultz.com Facebook group, and the RyanSchultz.com Google+ community. Please feel free to subscribe to either of these two groups.

Facebook group 10 Feb 2018
RyanSchultz.com Facebook Group
Google Plus community 10 Feb 2017
RyanSchultz.com Google+ Community

Inara Pey Blogs the Sansar Product Meetup of Friday Feb. 9th

Inara Pey blogged the following notes, which were taken from the Sansar Product Meetup held at 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time/Sansar Time on Friday, February 9th, 2018.

Inara Pey: Living in a Modem World

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held at 9:30am PST on Friday, February 9th, 2018 – unfortunately, I was unable to attend the afternoon meeting, so have not notes from that.

These Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat, and there is currently no set agenda. The official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings, while venues change each week, and are listed in the Meet-up Announcements and the Sansar Atlas events sections.

Product Meeting Changes

The “new format” for the Product Meetings, featuring specific subject matter experts from the Lab making themselves available to answer questions from users will now likely start in the week commencing Monday, February 12th.

  • The meetings are liable to be held on different days of the week relative to one another, rather than both on…

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Inara Pey Blogs the Sansar Product Meetups of Friday, Feb. 2nd

Inara Pey blogged the following notes from the Sansar Product Meetups held at 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time/Sansar Time on Friday, February 2nd, 2018.

Inara Pey: Living in a Modem World

David Hall’s Dwarven Fortress – setting for the Friday afternoon Product Meeting

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held at 9:30am and 4:00pm PST on Friday, February 2nd, 2018. These Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat, and there is currently no set agenda. The official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings, while venues change each week, and are listed in the Meet-up Announcements and the Sansar Atlas events sections.

Meeting Changes

Up until now, the Product Meetings have been free-form, general Q&A sessions, largely guided by whoever from the Lab’s Sansar team has been able to join each meeting. In the future, there is liable to be more of a roadmap to meetings, with advanced notice being given on specific subject matter experts from the Lab who will be…

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