Facebook to Give Up to Five Awards of US$75,000 Each for Social VR Research Proposals

Facebook Research dropped the following announcement, which I somehow missed, which will be of some interest to academic researchers in the area of social virtual reality:

Facebook is…soliciting proposals to help accelerate research in social VR with the hope of fostering open, welcoming, and safer virtual worlds. There are fairly robust research fields in traditional 2D social platforms, and we hope to drive similar progress in the fields of 3D and virtual reality social interaction. We anticipate awarding a total of five awards of up to $75,000 USD each. Payment will be made to the proposer’s host university in the form of a grant awarded by a third-party donor-advised fund, per the Terms & Conditions set forth below.

We strongly encourage researchers from diverse backgrounds and of diverse abilities to apply.

Facebook also provides three topics that they are especially interested in, but also state that “Researchers are encouraged to propose additional topics relevant to the theme of social interactions and social user experiences in VR environments.” The three areas are:

1. How does social VR contribute to social connection?

As with any form of interactive platform, virtual reality can help us better understand user behaviors and psychology. Facebook is interested in learning how immersive 3D VR experiences can help us better understand topics related to social connection, interaction and interpersonal relationships (virtual and real).

Social networks and groups are fundamental forums for interaction on these platforms. We are interested in how groups and communities arise, operate, and facilitate interaction in social VR environments.

2. What lessons in social interaction, social psychology and experience have we learned from 2D social platforms that apply to 3D immersive environments?

Despite immersive social platforms being relatively new to society, there are countless lessons that we can take from research on 2D social platforms that have been in existence for decades.Facebook is interested in discovering how research areas like social interaction, social anxiety and online harassment from a 2D lens can be applied to further understand experiences in 3D social VR environments.

3. How can we ensure user safety for teens in social VR environments?

Facebook is interested in how immersive social VR experiences affect teens (ages 13-18) in particular. Further, Facebook seeks to understand how social VR platforms can mitigate threats such as online addiction, online harassment, cyberbullying, and other safety concerns for younger users.

The deadline for applications is October 29th, 2020. For further details, including the terms and conditions of these awards, please see the Facebook Research website for this award. For a listing of all current research award opportunities, please see Facebook’s Research Awards page.

The Schultzies: I Need Your Help

And no, the Schultzy award will NOT look like this…
(Photo by Fauzan Saari on Unsplash)

O.K., so… here’s the situation.

My idea yesterday evening for an annual awards show for excellence in social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse has landed with a resounding thud. (Which is what happens to most of my bright ideas, sadly.)

To organize and put on an actual awards show, even in the metaverse (and until we come up with a real and proper name for it, let’s just call it “the Schultzies”), is actually a much bigger, more complex (and frankly, more political) endeavour than I first anticipated. I will need some help.

So I am hereby putting out a call for volunteers who would be interested in helping me pull this event off. If you are also interested in the idea of an annual awards show, and would like to volunteer for the Schultzies (and no, we don’t need seat fillers…yet), please contact me in one of the following ways:

  • Leave a comment on this blogpost with a means of contact;
  • Use the Contact page on this blog;
  • Send me a message on one of the many virtual world Discord servers I belong to (my handle is always the same, Ryan Schultz).

It’s still way too early to decide on exactly what kind of help we’ll need to arrange, but some suggestions are: mesh content creators (we need a suitable award), a set/stage designer, people to set up polls to collect category ideas, then collect nominations in each category, etc.

If I get enough volunteers, then we can proceed. If I don’t, then I will set the idea aside for a year or two, until the metaverse matures a bit more.

UPDATED! What If We Held Annual Awards for Excellence in Social VR and Virtual Worlds?

Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony…What would you call an award
for excellence in social VR and virtual worlds?

I’ve been letting an idea percolate in my head, and now that we are getting closer to awards season in real life, perhaps it’s time to bring it out for closer inspection and debate: what if we held an annual awards ceremony for excellence in social VR and virtual worlds?

We could call them the Schultzies. 😉 OK, maybe not… but let’s toss the idea around for a bit and see what we all can come up with.

We need:

  • A name for the awards;
  • Categories for the awards;
  • A time (and a place!) for an awards ceremony;
  • An award of some type (a picture and/or in-world mesh object);
  • A host (I am willing to step in if Billy Crystal is unavailable).

What else would we need? The most important thing that we need, right now, is categories. Here are some examples to get us started:

  • Best Social VR Platform of 2019;
  • Best (Non-VR) Virtual World of 2019;
  • Best Blockchain-Based Virtual World of 2019;
  • Best Content Creator/Brand of 2019;
  • Best In-World Store/Marketplace Product of 2019;
  • Most Innovative Use of a Social VR/Virtual World in 2019;
  • Best Marketing/PR Move by a Social VR/Virtual World in 2019;
  • Outstanding Contribution to Social VR/Virtual Worlds in 2019 (an award we would give to an individual person);
  • What other categories can you come up with?

We could also (if we wish) incorporate some aspect of the Razzies, by including awards for some of the more ignominious achievements of the year:

  • Biggest Platform Fail of 2019;
  • Biggest Advertising/PR Mistake Made by a Company in 2019;
  • What other categories can you think of?

I could whip up a poll for nominations for each category, and select the top 4 or 5 suggestions in each category as our finalists.

Whaddayathink? Could we make this work? I think this might be a lot of fun.

First things first: what are we gonna call the awards? Please feel free to leave a comment below, or better yet, join us on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the world’s first cross-world discussion forum, where we can toss around some ideas. We’d love to have you!

P.S. I am willing to organize, but if I do then I don’t think it’s fair for me to actually vote on the awards in that case, so I will remove myself from that. The voting would be open to the users of the various social VR platforms and virtual worlds for a set period of time (say, two weeks).

P.P.S. Perhaps we should scrap the Razzies portion of the awards before we get started; it would just seem like kicking certain companies when they’re already down. It just doesn’t seem sporting to me.

UPDATE 5:39 p.m.: Adam Frisby of Sinespace had a good suggestion: that I investigate the various in-world awards shows of the past (the Cy Awards in ActiveWorlds, the Avi Choice Awards in Second Life, etc.).

So that’s exactly what I am going to do over the next few days (in between ransacking various Second Life Advent calendars, of course!). So if you don’t see any posts over the next few days, you’ll know I have gone down the rabbit hole…