Clemson University Research Study into Social VR

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Researchers at Clemson University are conducting a paid research study on social VR. According to a post made to the SocialVR subReddit:

Hello! We are a group of academic researchers who are conducting a research project about social VR. The project is about understanding why people use social VR, how they interact with one another in social VR, and how social VR supports their social needs, identity construction, and relationship building. If you have experienced any social VR platforms/applications/environments and are willing to be interviewed, please contact us and we will send you the information sheet, which provides more details about this research. You will be paid a $20 Amazon gift card after the interview is completed. 

If you are interested, you can contact the researcher, Dr. Guo Freeman, via email at guof@clemson.edu.

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Sansar Pick of the Day: Susan’s Diary

Today I went exploring in Sansar, and I came across a sinister world called Susan’s Diary, designed by Sergio Delacruz (who previously created worlds such as Day 24: The Escape and the creepy Orphanage of Angels).

Susan’s Diary consists of a series of puzzles that you have to solve, to figure out what happened to Susan and her dolls. Every so often, you will encounter a stray page from her diary, which you can pick up and read for clues.

The world is masterfully done, with all kinds of touches that add to the foreboding atmosphere, like flying crows and candles you can blow out and relight! (Here’s a hint to get you started: you’re going to need that well to find the first key.)

I would have been lost without the assistance of another person who had already been through the various steps. Even so, we struggled at times to solve the puzzles. (At one step, it helps if you can read music.) The fiendishly clever puzzles reminded me of the classic games Riven and Myst (high praise indeed!).

Be sure to put on your thinking cap and pay Susan’s Diary a visit! See if you can make it all the way to the end. There’s a very satisfying and dramatic conclusion.

Quote of the Day: “An Hour in the Metaverse…”

Image created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

Dana Cowley, who is the senior marketing manager at Epic Games (the makers of the phenomenally successful Fortnite), made a great observation about the metaverse that I wanted to share with you:

She said (or perhaps quoted), as part of her notes on the recent SIGGRAPH presentation by Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney:

An hour in the metaverse needs to be better than
– an hour on Facebook
– an hour on Instagram
– an hour on Twitter
– an hour on YouTube
– an hour on Netflix
– an hour in Fortnite
– an hour in anything we have now

In other words, the metaverse has to be so compelling—and offer something so different from what we have now—that people will inevitably flock to use it. It’s something to keep in mind as we look at the current landscape of social VR platforms and virtual worlds.

Editorial: Why I Think High Fidelity is Doomed

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Look, I realize that I have been exceptionally cranky lately when it comes to High Fidelity. The company is just trying so hard to make its remote teamwork social VR platform a thing, but, sweet minty Jesus, I think they are failing (and flailing) big time.

I follow the High Fidelity corporate Twitter account, and this morning, somebody posted the following tweet:

Clicking through takes you to the High Fidelity Marketplace, where you can pick up Piper Peppercorn’s virtual coffee mug for 25 HFC (High Fidelity Coin):

So, the thinking here is something along the lines of: “Hey, we want to get people visiting and using High Fidelity, so I have an idea! Let’s promote various items from the Marketplace on Twitter! Somebody will want that coffee mug so much, that they will:

  • download and install the High Fidelity client software;
  • create an avatar;
  • MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO VISIT THE BANK to get some HFC;
  • go shopping on the High Fidelity Marketplace and buy that coffee mug.”

I’m sorry, but that is a completely insane expectation. Between tweets for various objects for sale like this coffee mug and a scarf (yes, a scarf!), and numerous generic tweets about the joys and benefits of remote working, I am seriously starting to wonder what the hell is going on:

High Fidelity should stop trying to promote remote teamwork in general, and start focusing squarely on selling their platform. They are not going to convince any company to try using remote workers through these ineffective tweets. If they think this will actually make any sort of difference with executive decision makers, they are sadly mistaken.

The virtual coworking island cam fiasco is a perfect example of a company seemingly completely adrift, without any clear indication that they know what to do, or how to market themselves. It took two days—two days—for the company to even notice that its livestreams had no audio. And the livestreams hardly showed off the platform in its best light, even though they have some innovative product features such as spatialized audio. Nobody is going to watch these videos and think, “Hey, this is cool! I want this for my business!”

High Fidelity is one of the clients of a professional PR company, called Firebrand Communications; do they not listen to their advice at all? Or is this the best advice they are being given at this point? (One blog reader astutely pointed out that any good PR company would be monitoring mentions of their clients on social media and blogs, and stepping in when somebody posts highly critical, deeply negative blogposts like I have written about High Fidelity recently. That’s what PR companies do.)

High Fidelity is a sinking ship, and it just breaks my heart. I’m just going to come right out and say this: I now believe that the company is doomed. Their user forums are a virtual ghost town (nobody has posted anything for a week now, a troubling sign). Many people, like Jason Moore of the MetMovie Project, have abandoned HiFi for other social VR platforms. You load up the HiFi client and visit, and except for a few events like the weekly salon hosted by DrFran, the platform is empty.

High Fidelity is a case that should be studied at university business schools of how not to treat your existing userbase, and how not to promote yourself to try and get new customers. High Fidelity desperately needs help, particularly when it comes to marketing and public relations, and I’m not sure that they are going to get that help before they run out of the millions of dollars of venture capital they received, and simply close up shop.

So, what do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment below or, as always, you are welcome to join the freewheeling conversations, arguments, and debates about social VR and virtual worlds taking place on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the first cross-worlds discussion forum! We’d love to see you there.