Teooh: A Brief Introduction

I swear, they must be running out of names for new metaverse platforms! (I kept typing in “Teeoh” instead of “Teooh” when searching for this one, or while writing up this blogpost.)

Teooh (currently in beta) describes itself as follows in their FAQ:

On Teooh you can create virtual events and monetize them by selling tickets. Your guests can attend as an avatar and hear speakers, socialise and network with others. All this through their laptop and mobile phone. In short, if the Sims did paid events Teooh would be it.

Teooh appears to offer several different kinds of virtual spaces for your event:

Here’a a one-minute promotional video to give you a feel:

Here’s a longer, twelve-minute video showing you a bit more of the platform:

There’s precious little technical information about Teooh on their website, and no pricing info available. All the individual customer use cases in the “For Customers” drop-down menu point to essentially the same text and images, repeated over and over for each case. Someone really needs to put some more work to this new platform’s website.

From what I can tell, this is primarily a service for desktop and mobile devices. TechCrunch reports:

Teooh won’t be available in VR, instead focusing on mobile and desktop platforms, hoping to pitch an alternative to teleconferencing software like Zoom that is more bespoke for meetups where participants can single out and chat with individual users in a virtual environment.

So, I would classify Teeoh (damn, I mean Teooh!) as a virtual world with mobile support. And frankly, I think that a nonsense word like Teooh is a terrible, terrible name for a product. (In my opinion, it ranks right up there with Twinity and Beloola for stupid platform names.) The company behing Teeoh needs to reach out to a professional branding consultant and change it.

If you want more information on Teooh, you can visit their website, or follow them on social media: Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube (and the link to their Twitter account from their website is broken, another sign that somebody is not paying attention to details).

It would appear that Teooh is now taking applications from parties who are interested in using the beta platform for their events; the application form is here (just click on the button “Apply for Batch #2”).

Thanks to Neobela for the heads-up!


XRSpace Announces a New Wireless VR Headset called Mova, and a New Social VR Platform called Manova, to Compete Against Facebook Horizon

I first wrote about XRSpace back in September 2019, when there was little to report about the then-secretive project. Today, the VR hardware and software company finally pulled the wraps off what they had been working on in secret!

XRSpace’s Mova Wireless VR Headset

The Road to VR website is reporting today:

At a special event in Taipei, Taiwan, HTC cofounder and former CEO Peter Chou today revealed the first products from the new startup XRSPACE. It’s serving up both its own 5G-enabled standalone VR headset as well as a new social VR platform which appears to compete with Facebook Horizon.

Chou sees XRSpace serving the upcoming era of widespread 5G; much like smartphones first arrived on the back of the 2.5G network in the early 2000s, the former HTC CEO sees the company’s headset, Mova, and its social VR platform, Manova, taking human interaction “to a new level” and offering more connectivity on a person-to-person level. And XRSpace planning to bring it to the mass market.

XRSpace Announces the Social VR Platform Manova and the Wireless VR Headset Mova

Mova is a wireless VR headset like the Oculus Quest, which uses optical hand tracking instead of physical hand controllers. Engadget reports:

The Mova will ship with a single controller for gaming purposes, but it’s designed to be used with hand tracking as the primary control method. This, in theory, would lower the learning barrier for most people, and they would probably use the headset more often because of its less fiddly nature. But the company wants hand gestures to be a core interaction in its virtual world, Manova. And this is where things get different from VR headsets that we’ve seen already.

Once you’re inside one of the Manova spaces…you can toggle most common social gestures with natural movements: you can shake hands with other avatars, give high fives, do fist bumps or toast with a glass. You can even grab and throw objects, meaning you can shoot hoops or throw darts with your buddies who are actually miles away in real life. There’s also a gesture for teleportation: tap in the air with your index finger to toggle an arrow, then point at your desired spot and tap again to teleport.

The two-minute promotional video focuses on the social VR platform, called XRSPace Manova.

This video mentions something called MagicLOHAS, which describes itself on its separate website as:

Employing matured XR technology, computer vision, 5G, 3D real-time interactive, and visualization of full-body avatar,  MagicLOHAS achieves a healthy life that is not limited by time and place. We offer a variety of applications from meditation, body training, brain training, and more, to bring new lifestyles of health and sustainability to the mass market through virtual reality.

Here are some first pictures of the Manova social VR platform and avatars (source). I’ll tell you one thing, the Manotva avatars sure look one hell of a lot better than what Facebook Horizon is planning to offer:

C|net reporter Shara Tibken (who was one of the few reporters to get to try out an early version of Mova and Manova, and whose teaser story first caught my attention back in September), writes about the features of this new social VR platform:

Manova is a combination of private and public spaces, and during my demo, I see both. When I put on the headset, I’m in the private sphere, a minimalist home. I can sit on the couch in my living room and watch a movie by myself or invite friends to join me. The next moment, I follow my XRSpace guide to zap myself to a T-Mobile-branded sports arena to watch a basketball game from the center court line. The game is real, with real players, and I have the best seat. 

The private spaces include not only your home but also classrooms and meeting rooms for those water cooler conversations or hour-long meetings that used to take place in person in real offices. The public Manova realm has a central city center hub to play games or watch big entertainment events. 

For the initial launch, XRSpace has signed on six education companies that do things like teach English; game developers like Futuretown and Rovio’s Angry Birds; live-streaming companies like Insta360’s travel video; GQ and Vogue with fashion content; YC House for virtual Taiwanese real-estate tours; Bank SinoPac for corporate training; and the Taiwanese record label Wind Music. 

The wireless Mova headset is expected to ship sometime in the third quarter of 2020, at a price of US$599. Apparently, only Mova headset users will be able to access the Manova social VR platform, which sounds a bit like a jazzed-up version of Oculus Home for Oculus Quest and Rift users. And it’s an intriguing approach: bundling the social VR platform with the VR headset (which, of course, is exactly what Facebook wants to do with its Oculus line of headsets and Facebook Horizon).

The Verge reports on the risks of this approach:

Mova and Manova are a package deal: XRSpace’s world is only available through its headset, and the headset won’t support other VR storefronts. XRSpace is also supposed to have its own accessory ecosystem, including optional hand controllers and tracking sensors, which are described as much smaller versions of HTC’s Vive Tracker.

I haven’t seen either product in action, so it’s possible XRSpace will deliver on its promises. That said, this seems like a significant risk for the company and anybody who buys the headset, even making the huge assumption that its hardware is on par with existing devices like the Quest.

Meanwhile, many companies have failed to launch Manova-like virtual worlds, including Second Life operator Linden Lab with Sansar and Linden Lab founder Philip Rosedale with the largely shuttered High Fidelity. Chou believes Manova can succeed where Sansar and High Fidelity failed because of its “fine-tuned” nature.

“I think the difference is they designed those things based on the PC first and then they tried to put it on VR,” he says. “They don’t have a good digital avatar and they don’t have a holistic consideration of the mass-market consumer using it.” But that’s still an iffy bet, especially for a device that costs far more than the highly capable $399 Oculus Quest.

And I have to say that Chou (XRSpace CEO and former HTC head Peter Chou) is wrong; both Sansar and High Fidelity were designed from the beginning to support the first generation of consumer VR headsets (notably the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift). The problem happened when both Linden Lab and High Fidelity bet the farm that there would be massive consumer uptake of virtual reality by now, which so far has failed to happen. This is what led to the essential shuttering of High Fidelity and the sale of Sansar by Linden Lab to Wookey (a company which specializes in buying up distressed companies and trying to turn them around).

I wonder if Peter Chou has ever actually sat down and talked with Ebbe Altberg or Philip Rosedale…judging by his quote above, and his lack of knowledge about Sansar and High Fidelity, probably not. Both Ebbe and Philip would be the first to tell him that “fine tuning” a platform is absolutely no guarantee of its popularity and success, based on their own bitter experience.

Exclusively bundling a full-blown, high-end social VR platform with a particular, as-yet-untested brand of VR headset is a huge gamble, though. If a battle for marketshare erupts between XRSpace and Facebook, Facebook is by far the stronger opponent here. (For example, while XRSpace has the rights to offer the Angry Birds game, Facebook already owns the phenomenally successful and popular juggernaut of Beat Saber! You can bet that Beat Saber will not be appearing in Manova anytime soon.)

If you want more information in CRSpace, Mova, Manova, and MagicLOHAS, you can visit the XRSpace website or the MagicLOHAS website, or follow XRSpace on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Thank you to Andrew William for the heads up!

Spatial, Originally a Social Augmented Reality Platform, Expands to Virtual Reality and Offers a Free Version During the Pandemic

When I first wrote about Spatial back in October of 2018, it was a social augmented reality (AR) platform which only ran on the first generation of AR headsets available for purchase by consumers: the much-hyped Magic Leap and Microsoft’s HoloLens.

(By the way, if you are looking for definitions of terms such as augmented reality, I have compiled a handy list of definitions for my blog readers.)

Since I wrote that first blogpost, Magic Leap has struggled, laying off about half its employees in April 2020, and choosing to focus on enterprise users instead of chasing the consumer market. (It is interesting to compare the recent troubles of Magic Leap with that of Sansar and High Fidelity. In all three cases, the lack of the previously-confidently-predicted massive consumer uptake of VR/AR/MR/XR headsets led directly to their downsizing and restructuring.)

Well, VentureBeat reported on May 13th, 2020 that the company is making Spatial available for free during the pandemic, and they are now supporting the Oculus Quest standalone VR headset:

First, the company is offering multiple months of free access to its premium-level Spatial Pro enterprise service, including support for users without full-fledged AR or VR devices. Businesses will be able to share any Spatial room with team members using just a web link, enabling desktop, laptop, and small device users to join meetings with a web browser, no download or headset required. Spatial’s headset UI has been carried over to the web, enabling 2D screen users to easily observe the 3D spaces.

Second, Spatial is making an Oculus Quest app generally available today, including a “much improved experience” compared with the prior private beta. Although Facebook hasn’t announced sales figures for the hybrid standalone and PC-tethered headset, Spatial characterizes the repeatedly sold-out Quest as “the most widely available XR device today” and says it has refined its user interface to make the experience easier for new users.

Here’s a screencap of Spatial’s pricing page, reflecting this change:

Spatial is free during the coronavirus pandemic!
Spatial is now available on the Oculus Quest, Microsoft HoloLens 1 and 2,
Magic Leap One, and Via Desktop/Flatscreen Web and Mobile Devices

Now, choosing to expand to include the popular Oculus Quest wireless VR headset is a smart move. Facebook does not disclose sales figures for the Quest, but some have estimated (based on game sales) that the company has sold approximately 425,000 Quests in 2019. Contrast this with the poor sales reported of the Magic Leap One:

The Information‘s Alex Heath is reporting that Magic Leap managed to sell just 6,000 units of its $2,300 Magic Leap One headset in its first six months on sale, a figure made worse by CEO Rony Abovitz’s internal claims that he wanted the startup to sell at least one million units of the device in the first year, a goal the report states he was later convinced to rethink — Abovitz later projected the company would sell 100,000 units in the first year.

Of course, such sluggish sales were one of the reasons that Magic Leap essentially gave up on trying to sell to the consumer market, and focused squarely on the corporate market. (Microsoft is a little more forthcoming with its HoloLens sales figures, but at roughly 50,000 units reported sold in 2018, they also are dwarfed by Quest sales.) It only makes sense for the company to add a headset which beings more potential customers—and, hopefully, enterprise sales—to the table. Spatial already boasts Ford, Mattel, T Mobile, Purina and Pfizer among its corporate clients.

Here’s an 11-minute YouTube video demonstrating how Spatial works on the HoloLens 2 AR headset, from 2019:

I happen to own an Oculus Quest, and normally I would leap on an opportunity to test-drive Spatial, except for one small problem: the large space I cleared in my bedroom for my Oculus Quest is now piled high with my pandemic stockpile of non-perishable food, Lysol disinfectant wipes, and toilet paper! So obviously, that’s not going to happen. So I am going to have to rely on second-hand reports on how well Spatial works with the Quest (I am rather curious to know what differences would appear in someone using Spatial in virtual reality as opposed to augmented reality.)

In a separate VentureBeat article, reporter Jeremy Horwitz waxes rhapsodic about his experience using Spatial on his Oculus Quest:

I’m not often at a loss for words, but as I re-entered the real world after my second holographic media briefing this month, I realized that I was struggling to speak or type. Mentally, the sensation was awe — my sincere belief that I had just experienced the future of remote work and meetings…

The breakthrough here is Spatial, a collaborative workspace app that just became available for the popular Oculus Quest VR headset. It’s not hyperbole to say that Spatial has unilaterally reignited my enthusiasm for the Quest, which has recently gathered dust on my desk, as the potent pairing enables me to quickly participate in 3D group meetings filled with multiple realistic participants. Instead of using cartoony avatars or floating video tiles, Spatial users appear as “holograms” with real faces, motion-sensed head and hand movements, and even lip motions keyed to their live voices.

The text under the three smaller pictures along the bottom of this image, which is a bit hard to read here, says:

– Create your 3D-realistic avatar from a single selfie in second
– Your avatar comes to life as you talk, move and interact
– Shake hands and high-five each other

So, if anybody out there wants to try the free version of Spatial on their Oculus Quest, and write up a review, I would be happy to provide the blogpost for a guest review! Thanks! I hope somebody takes me up on my offer.

If you want to learn more about Spatial, you can visit their web page, or follow them on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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.