UPDATED! Ernest Cline, Author of Ready Player One, Will Attend a Virtual Book Tour Event for His Sequel Novel, Ready Player Two, in Bigscreen Today (Saturday, December 5th, 2020)

Ernest Cline, the author of the phenomenally successful virtual-reality-based science fiction novel, Ready Player One, will be visiting Bigscreen (the social VR app which allows you to share movie viewing experiences with others; more here on my blog), chatting with Darshan Shankar (Bigscreen’s founder and CEO), and taking questions from a virtual audience.

According to the official blogpost announcing the event:

The Q&A with Cline and Darshan Shankar, the CEO and Founder of Bigscreen, will be streamed in Bigscreen on December 5th at 5:00 p.m. Pacific (8:00 p.m. Eastern). The event is open to audiences worldwide for free, and requires the Bigscreen application (www.bigscreenvr.com) and a supported virtual reality headset.

The cover of Ernest Cline’s eagerly-awaited sequel to Ready Player One

Bigscreen supports all major VR headsets, including the Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Bigscreen is available as a free download from the Oculus Store (PCQuest) or via Steam. (Please note that although the Ernest Cline event today is free, you must purchase tickers to see some premium movie content on Bigscreen.)

For more information on Bigscreen, visit their website, or follow them on social media: TwitterFacebookYouTube, and Reddit. You can also join the Bigscreen Community Discord server, with over 15,000 members.

UPDATE Dec. 6th, 2020: I, unfortunately, was unable to attend this event, but someone who did informed me that it was pre-recorded, and there was no Q&A session from a virtual audience. Please accept my apologies for the error!

Bigscreen Partners With Paramount Pictures to Offer Movies in Social VR

Variety reports on a new partnership between social VR platform Bigscreen and Paramount Pictures:

San Francisco-based virtual reality startup Bigscreen has teamed up with Paramount Pictures to bring the theater experience to VR headsets: Bigscreen will begin showing classic Paramount movies like Interstellar and Star Trek in a virtual movie theater, where users can watch the films together with friends.

Much like a traditional theater, Bigscreen won’t overwhelm users with on-demand choices. Instead, the company will show only 4 movies every week, with showings starting every 30 minutes. Viewers can personalize their avatars, hang out in the lobby together, and even voice chat with each other.

According to Variety, movies will cost US$4-5 each.

Now, one issue that comes up with this new service is that most VR headsets can become uncomfortable to wear for the two hours (or longer) it takes to watch an entire movie. I have gradually built up my own tolerance for VR headsets and I can wear them for over two hours, but many newcomers to VR will find sitting through a whole film intolerable. The Oculus Quest headset in particular is a bit front-heavy, I find, which also affects how long you can wear it comfortably.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the Bigscreen-Paramount partnership is a good idea, but it might take until the second generation of VR hardware arrives for it to fully bear fruit.

Cas and Chary Cover Five Social VR Platforms (Including Sansar)

Most of the people making YouTube videos about virtual reality hardware and software are men, so it is refreshing to find a new (well, new to me, anyways) channel about VR run by two women, called Cas and Chary VR.

Last week, Cas published a 10-minute YouTube video tour of five less popular social VR platforms, explaining:

So we all know VRChat, Rec Room, [and] AltspaceVR. This video isn’t about these games. It’s about 5 others that you might have missed.

The five platforms covered in this video include:

Videos like this are useful because they give viewers a look at platforms that they might not have had an opportunity to visit themselves. I was surprised to find that Sansar was a sponsor for this video. Cas says:

DISCLAIMER: This video was sponsored by Sansar. Per our guidelines, no review direction was received from them. Our opinions are our own.

I think it’s smart that Linden Lab is reaching out to YouTube influencers like Cas and Chary with sponsorship opportunities. As I have written before, social VR companies will likely have to turn to influencers more often in future to promote their products more effectively.

Using Bigscreen As a Remote Workteams Virtual Reality App

A user named PixelRouter posted the following picture to the Oculus subReddit today:

With a post titled Bought 4 Quests and a Rift S and so the sales guy wanted a pic. Will be using them for remote collaboration with my team using Bigscreen. We’ve come along way since DK1, he sparked a lively discussion about the merits of Bigscreen as an example of Yet Another Remote Teams Virtual Reality App (YARTVRA). You can see a short list of other YARTVRA here.

When asked why he had decided to go this route, he replied:

I used Bigscreen when it first came out for the Rift a couple of years ago and found it was amazing for collaborating on digital work of all sorts. I once spent four hours teaching people to build a basic Unity VR game, inside Bigscreen. The trouble was all the wires. Now with the Quest I am hoping it will be nearly as simple as setting up a zoom video call to have team members step in to our Bigscreen room to talk about what we are working on while able to present their screens…

I use Zoom all the time for video calls with potential business partners and it’s OK, but the thing that is great about Bigscreen is the sense of presence you feel with the others in the same room. It feels much more like a real-world, in-person meeting.

When one person said that VR wasn’t yet at a stage where this would be logical, PixelRouter replied:

I disagree. At least this is my tentative stance as I set out to try this out at my company. I’ve been an Oculus developer since 2013 with the DK1. I discovered Bigscreen when it first came out about two years ago. At the time I was Technical Director at a VR company in New York. Some days I worked remotely from NJ and would use Bigscreen to review code and designs, with people at the office in New York. It was awesome, except for all the wires and setup. Now, with the Quest, I think we have crossed that threshold where it really is practical to use VR to collaborate…

This is core to my experiment here. I want to see what we can make of this. I’m not a noob. I went through the “VR is the best thing ever” phase, on to the, “but it’s not there yet phase”. Things change, though. I think that, with the Quest, it may have just crossed that convenience threshold which will make this stick. We shall see.

And I have to admit, this is a perfectly valid use for Bigscreen, which I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to before. I always used to see Bigscreen as more of an entertainment app, but it could be used as a remote workteams app, too!