My List of 25 People in Social VR, Virtual Worlds, and the Metaverse Whom You Should Be Following (Plus a Few Alternates!)

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I’ve had an opportunity to meet and interact with many people over the three-and-a-half years I have been writing this blog, and I thought today that I would introduce you to some of them: notable people who are active in social virtual reality, virtual worlds, and the metaverse. You might wish to follow them on social media, as I do.

I will apologize in advance to anybody whom I have inadvertently left off my list. And while I might have crossed swords with a few of the people on this list in the past, that does not mean that I do not respect and appreciate the valuable work that they do. Remember, everybody brings something to the table, and it takes all kinds of people to make a world.

With that said, here is my (purely subjective) list of 25 people you should be following. I have tried to include people of all genders and sexual orientations in this list (although I will admit that I need to try harder to follow more BiPOC people who are working in social VR and virtual worlds).

Also, as well as very white, this list is extremely First World-centered, with everybody (except Adam Frisby, who is Australian) coming from either North America or Europe! I do believe that deliberately broadening the diversity of who you choose to follow is a good way to hear about things and ideas that you might not have at first considered! Please accept my apologies, and if you are aggrieved that I have left somebody off this list, please let me know in the comments, thank you!

This list is in alphabetical order, because I would not dare to attempt to rank them! Besides, ranking people from so many diverse backgrounds and with such a range of accomplishments and talents would be like trying to compare apples to oranges!

Wagner James Au (website) was the original embedded journalist with Linden Lab, the makers of Second Life, and 17 years later, his blog, New World Notes, is still going strong! Over the years, he has broadened his scope from Second Life to cover “virtual worlds, VR, & internet culture” (as the tagline of his blog states).

Andrew Bosworth (a.k.a Boz; Twitter; LinkedIn) is Vice President of Facebook Reality Labs at Facebook, and given Facebook’s current and future influence on virtual reality, I felt it was important to include somebody from the company. Other Facebook folk to follow would be Yelena Ratchitsky (Executive Producer of Media, AR/VR Facebook) and Meaghan Fitzgerald (Head of Experiences Product Marketing at Facebook Reality Labs). Despite my well-documented dislike of Facebook and its business model and operations (for example, you will note that I have not provided any links to Facebook profiles on this list!), I still follow all three on Twitter.

Kent Bye (website; Twitter; LinkedIn; Wikipedia) is a no-brainer addition to this list! Kent is an absolutely indefatigable chronicler of virtual reality, with his long-running Voices of VR podcast, where he does deep-dive interviews with many personalities behind the technology.

Alex Coulombe (Twitter; LinkedIn) is a co-founder of Agile Lens, which has done some fascinating, groundbreaking work in live VR theatre.

Nathaniël de Jong (a.k.a. Nathie; Twitter; YouTube) is a major virtual reality vlogger and influencer, with over 655,000 subscribers and growing!

Bernhard Drax (a.k.a. Draxtor Despres; Twitter; website) is the tireless chronicler of virtual worlds, notably Second Life, where he is currently the host of a regular show talking with authors about their books. If you haven’t yet, catch his full-length documentary, Our Digital Selves: My Avatar is Me (here’s a link).

Charlie Fink (LinkedIn) is AR/VR author, speaker, and columnist for Forbes magazine. (Or, if you prefer, Ian Hamilton, who writes about virtual reality at UploadVR. Or Bobby Carlton at VRScout. These are three of countless popularizers and explainers of VR whom I could list here.)

Adam Frisby (Twitter; LinkedIn) has deep roots in virtual worlds, having worked in Second Life and been a key developer of OpenSim. Currently, he is Chief Product Officer at Sine Wave Company, the makers of up-and-coming Unity-based virtual world Sinespace and its corporate cousin, Breakroom.

Christina Kinne (a.k.a XaosPrincess; website; Twitter) is an artist who was an active proponent of the former High Fidelity social VR platform, who is currently Tivoli Cloud VR’s CMO and Events Manager. Her infectious enthusiasm about all things pertaining to social VR is a joy to behold!

Maria Korolov (Twitter) is the pre-eminent reporter on the many OpenSim (OpenSimulator) virtual worlds on her blog, Hypergrid Business, which over time has expanded to cover “virtual reality, immersive worlds, and other emerging technologies”, as her tagline states.

Strawberry Linden (a.k.a. Strawberry Singh; website) was an outsider turned insider: a popular and influential Second Life blogger that landed a job creating marketing content for Linden Lab, the makers of SL!

Cix Liv (Twitter) is a social VR developer and a gadfly to mighty Facebook, and somebody you want to follow if you want an alternative viewpoint on Facebook’s impact on virtual reality.

Luca (Twitter; YouTube) is a founder of the Virtual Existence Society who has vlogged thoughtfully about the impact and meaning of virtual worlds, including her beloved Second Life.

Chris Madsen (a.k.a DeepRifter; Twitter; LinkedIn) is in charge of business development at Immersive VR Education, the makers of the ENGAGE social VR platform.

Tomáš Mariančík (a.k.a. Frooxius; Twitter; LinkedIn) is the co-founder and lead designer and developer at Solirax Ltd., which is doing some insanely creative, innovative things with their social VR platform, NeosVR.

Caitlyn Meeks (Twitter; LinkedIn) is the co-founder and CEO of Tivoli Cloud VR (one of the forks of the original High Fidelity social VR platform code). Caitlyn is a geek with heart, and I love chatting with her whenever I pop into Tivoli Cloud!

Jason Moore (website; Twitter) is the mastermind and primary driver behind the MetaMovie project, a boundary-pushing cinematic VR experience which started in High Fidelity and has now moved to NeosVR.

Jessica Outlaw (Twitter; website) is a behavioral scientist who focuses on virtual and augmented reality design research, notably studying women’s experiences in social VR.

Jin (website; Twitter) is one of those people who has a finger in many pies, and who is an involved and passionate participant in many social VR projects (not least, his must-attend guided tours of the Virtual Market events in VRChat!).

Philip Rosedale (Twitter; LinkedIn; Wikipedia) is, of course, the visionary founder of Linden Lab (the creators of Second Life) and the co-founder of High Fidelity, and a definite must-follow if you are at all interested in social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse! Along with Kent Bye, his addition to this list was a no-brainer.

Noah Robinson (a.k.a. Psych; Twitter) is a clinical psychology doctoral student at Vanderbilt University, and entrepreneur (Very Real Help), who was also one of the regular hosts of the long-running, popular Endgame talk show in VRChat.

Artur Sychov (Twitter; LinkedIn) is the founder and CEO of the blockchain-based social VR platform Somnium Space, which I consider to be the most fully-featured blockchain-based virtual world (although Cryptovoxels and Decentraland also have passionate fanbases, too).

Tony Vitillo (a.k.a. SkarredGhost; Twitter; LinkedIn) writes about any and all aspects of virtual reality on his blog, The Ghost Howls. Often I learn things from Tony that I haven’t heard anywhere else!

Casandra Vuong and Chary Keijzer (a.k.a Cas and Chary; website; Twitter; YouTube) are a married couple who run the popular Cas and Chary VR YouTube channel together, reviewing virtual reality hardware and software.

So, there’s my list! A few more people who made the shortlist (and whom I could just as easily have swapped out one of the above 25 with, if you had asked me on a different day!) include:

  • Ben Nolan, the creator of Cryptovoxels;
  • Stanford professor and VR researcher Jeremy Bailenson;
  • VR artist Rosie Summers;
  • Valerie Hill, a librarian active in virtual worlds including Second Life;
  • Darshan Shankar, the founder and CEO of Bigscreen;
  • Timmu Tõke, the CEO of GetWolf3D (and the Ready Player Me avatar system);
  • Will Burns, the man who helped define the modern metaverse;
  • and Kavya Pearlman, a cybersecurity expert who is part of the XR Safety Initiative.

Have I left somebody out? If you think I’ve omitted somebody, then please feel free to leave a comment on this blogpost, thank you! You are also welcome to join the 500-plus people who are part of the the Discord server, the world’s first cross-worlds community! We’d love to have you with us as we discuss, debate, and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and the many companies building it.

A Sneak Peek at an Upcoming Episode of the Metaverse Newscast: the Engage Educational VR Platform

The Metaverse Newscast is branching out! All eight of the episodes that my producer, Andrew William of Imagine That Productions, and I have released so far have been set in either High Fidelity or Linden Lab’s Sansar. But we have decided to start covering other platforms as well.

Last Saturday Andrew and I, plus our new lead editor Joey Jonaitis, spent well over two hours recording footage in Engage, an innovative educational VR platform. I interviewed Chris Madsen, who is in charge of Business Development at Immersive VR Education (the parent company of Engage) in various experiences on the platform, including a hospital in Kenya and even the surface of Mars!

One of the many amazing features of Engage is the ability to record three-dimensional video, which can then be played back and viewed from any angle! Chris, Andrew, and Joey shot a lot of 3D footage (as well as regular, “flat” footage) which will be used in the creation of this episode. Andrew and I are grateful that we have Joey’s experience with video editing as part of our team!

Here’s a shot of Chris and I that Andrew took in a recreation of a reading room at the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford within Engage (the face on Chris’ avatar was generated using a single front profile photograph, another cool feature of Engage):

Chris Madsen and Ryan Schultz in ENGAGE (from Andrew’s blog)

Here’s a sneak peek at a segment that will form part of the final episode:

We don’t have a release date yet, and there are several other Metaverse Newscast episodes that are still in production, which will probably be released before this one. After spending 2 to 3 hours in VR headsets, we were all exhausted, and when I was done, I was covered in sweat! But it will be a great episode!

Here’s a link to all the past episodes of the Metaverse Newscast on YouTube.

Chris Madsen Gives Me a Guided Tour of the Engage Social VR Platform

Yesterday, Chris Madsen, who works in business development at Immersive VR Education (the creators of the Engage social VR platform), gave me and Andrew a personal guided tour of Engage. Among other experiences, we visited the surface of Mars, and took a look at an interactive model of the Mars Curiosity rover:

Engage 3 16 July 2018.png

We also visited a talk show set:

Engage 2 16 July 2018.png

And we wrapped it up at a virtual recreation of the Neolithic henge monument at Avebury in England:

Engage 16 July 2018.png

The Curiosity experience included a look at how the rover landed on the Mars surface; it was amazing to watch the entire procedure unfold!

Chris has some pretty great stories to tell about the early days of social VR development from five years ago, so I hope to interview him this fall for my Metaverse Newscast show. Thanks to my producer Andrew to taking these pictures using the Snapshot feature in Engage!