Dr. Marie Vans: 14 Reasons Why Virtual Worlds Are Still Better than Social VR Worlds for Educational Purposes

PLEASE NOTE: My blog is still on indefinite hiatus; I have made a single exception for this blogpost. After this, I will be going back on my self-imposed break from blogging.


Dr, Marie Vans (known as Amvans Lapis in Second Life) is a Senior Research Scientist at HP Labs in Colorado, who gave the following provocatively-titled presentation on March 19th, 2021 at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) 2021 Conference, held in SL:

Title Slide from Dr. Vans’ VWBPE Presentaion

14 Reasons Why Virtual Worlds are still better than Social VR Worlds

A year ago, VCARA started the VR Exploder’s Club wherein educators meet up once a month to determine whether and/or which Social VR Worlds we should establish a presence thereon after exploring different platforms together. Whether we used VR headsets or desktop versions of these platforms, we looked at criteria such as learning curve, real-time communication, interaction capabilities, and more. I will describe specific issues that have been resolved in VWs that still need attention in VR.

Drawing upon a number of representative social VR platforms chosen from my November 2019 spreadsheet (which I need to update!), she gave a great presentation on why she thinks that social VR platforms need to pull up their socks when it comes to supporting education, and why these newer platforms should not be so quick to dismiss older virtual world platforms such as Second Life!

Because the following YouTube video of Dr. Marie Vans’ presentation has a absolutely criminally low 56 views thus far, I have decided to write up a blogpost about it! And here it is! (I am going back on hiatus again after this.)

Here is the video of Dr. Vans’ hour-long VWBPE presentation, followed by a question and answer session with the audience. It’s well worth watching the entire thing!

My Talk to the Students in VR Group About Social VR in AltspaceVR

PLEASE NOTE: My blog is still on indefinite hiatus, but I wanted to share this video of a presentation I gave this week on social VR with my blog readers. After this, I will be going back on my self-imposed break from blogging.

I gave a one-hour presentation about social VR to the Students in VR group on the social VR platform AltspaceVR on Wednesday, March 17th, 2021:

I was asked if I could fill in after the original presenter cancelled at the last minute, and I was happy to help them out! There is a Q&A session both before and after this 25-minute presentation. Thanks and a shout out to Carlos Austin, who led the three-person camera team recording this event, and edited the final video you see here.

Here’s a link to all the blogposts I have written about AltspaceVR.

UPDATED: Second Life Founder and High Fidelity CEO Philip Rosedale Will Do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit on February 23rd, 2021

Philip shared the following photo when posting about his Reddit AMA on Twitter (source)

Mark your calendars! Philip tweeted late tonight:

Join me for a Reddit AMA on Feb. 23rd from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Ask me about Spatial Audio, VR, virtual worlds and virtual economies, avatars, and … anything.

So if you have any burning questions you’ve wanted to ask Philip, this is your perfect opportunity! When the AMA starts tomorrow, I will link to it here.

See you there!

UPDATE Feb. 23rd, 2021, 3:51 p.m.: Please accept my apoliogies for not linking to this AMA sooner; I was so tired that I lay down for a nap and landed up sleeping through the entire event!

Here’s the link to the Ask Me Anything posted to the r/IAmA subReddit, with the following introduction posted, plus the above photo as proof that he is, indeed, THE Philip Rosedale!

Hi Reddit!

I am the founder of the virtual civilization Second Life, populated by one million active users, and am now CEO and co-founder of High Fidelity — which has just released a real-time spatial audio API for apps, games, and websites. If you want to check it out, I’d love to hear what you think: highfidelity.com/api

High Fidelity’s Spatial Audio was initially built for our VR platform — we have been obsessive about audio quality from day one, spending our resources lowering latency and nailing spatialization.

Ask me about immersive spatial audio, VR, virtual worlds and spaces, avatars, and … anything.

(With me today I have /u/MaiaHighFidelity and /u/Valefox to answer technical questions about the API, too.)

This AMA has also been reposted the the r/secondlife, r//HighFidelity, r/WebRTC. and r/GameAudio subReddits.

UPDATE 4:26 p.m.: I have been informed that the AMA is still going on, as of this writing!

An Excellent Video Essay on Identity, Gender, and VRChat (or, Why Everybody in VRChat Seems to Be an Anime Girl)

One of the best decisions I have ever made as a blogger has nothing to do with this blog: setting up the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, which currently has over 500 members who discuss, debate, and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and the many companies building it—and who are often the source of great story leads for this blog!

And so it was that Madman, a member of my Discord community, tipped me off about this great, thoughtful one-hour YouTube video titled Identity, Gender, and VRChat (Why is everyone in VR an anime girl?), by a guy named Strasz. In a world of VRChat videos chockablock with livestreamed shenanigans, racist memes, and tomfoolery, Strasz presents a refreshing alternative: a one-hour, well-edited, thoughtful video essay on issues of identity and gender in VRChat, addressing a commonly-asked question: why is everybody you run into an anime girl?

It’s well worth setting aside an hour to watch this in full (I watched it last night before I went to bed):

The video is divided into five chapters; if you want to skip ahead, the part about anime girls is in the third chapter, but I would strongly recommend you watch the entire thing so you can see the excellent groundwork Strasz lays in creating an academic framework for his discussion, weaving in various research studies (which he footnotes both in the video itself and in the video description, something that gladdened this academic librarian’s heart!).

Now, coming from my 14 years of experiences in the virtual world of Second Life (where I could be, and often was, anybody and anything), I was already somewhat familiar with Strasz’ premise that social VR and virtual worlds give us an unparalleled opportunity to play with gender and identity, but I found I still learned quite a bit by watching this video, and I can recommend it highly! And I agree with his assertion that adding virtual reality to the mix greatly adds to the feeling of actually embodying your avatar representation in VRChat.

(If this topic intrigues you, you might also be interested in a 2017 blogpost I wrote about sex and gender issues in virtual worlds, and how some worlds impose artificial restraints upon non-binary users, forcing them into male or female roles.)

If you want more of this (and I certainly do!), then follow Strasz on Twitter or Twitch, check out the rest of his videos on YouTube, or join his Straszfilms Discord server. I look forward to future video essays!


Thanks to Madman for the heads up!