Drax Interviews Dr. Jeremy Bailenson on the Impact of Virtual Reality on Society

Jeremy Bailenson 16 Feb 2018
Jeremy Bailenson’s Avatar Being Interviewed in Drax’s Basement

Today, Draxtor Despres interviewed Dr. Jeremy Bailenson, who is a professor of communication at Stanford University and founding director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab. He has written a newly-published book titled Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do, which is an in-depth look at virtual reality and how it can be harnessed to improve our everyday lives. Jeremy said that this interview was the longest time he had ever spent so far in a social VR app!

Drax Interviews Jeremy 16 Feb 2018.png
Drax Interviews Jeremy

Among many other things, Drax and Jeremy discussed:

  • Treatment of victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (e.g. 9/11 survivors) using virtual reality.
  • How immersive social VR makes people behave towards each other in a more social manner (use of gestures, etc.). Research seems to indicate that VR tends to change behaviours in a positive way.
  • When training a procedural skill, VR tends to outperform simply watching a video. But researchers to date are not seeing gains in STEM education in a VR headset versus non-VR-based learning.

All in all, it was a great interview! Ebbe Altberg, the CEO of Linden Lab (the company behind Second Life and Sansar), joined the interview at the very end.

Here’s the YouTube video of the interview:

Scene of the Day: White Out and the Atlas Hopping Scavenger Hunt (Plus Nine Things I Learned)

Scavenger Hunt 1 6 Jan 2018.png
Team Green and Team Pink at the start of the Scavenger Hunt at White Out

I have never had so much fun in Sansar! We had well over twenty avatars show up in-world for the first-ever Atlas Hopping Scavenger Hunt. And I learned a few things:

  1. Drax can’t stop talking.
  2. You never appreciate how large a Sansar experience can be until you’re hunting for something small.
  3. Drax can’t stop talking.
  4. Drax has an unhealthy attachment to his German hand puppet.
  5. Drax can’t stop talking.
  6. Dynamic objects can clump together into one big ball when an experience crashes.
  7. Drax can’t stop talking.
  8. Teleporting is much faster than running, but whenever I picked up a scavenger hunt item in my VR headset, I found I couldn’t teleport at the same time.
  9. Did I mention, that DRAX CAN’T STOP TALKING?!??

Here’s Drax’s livestream of the event, which culminated in an exclusive first tour of the new sci-fi Sansar experience, 2077:

And here’s Strawberry’s livestream of the event:

Special Torley-Inspired Scavenger Hunt Edition of Atlas Hopping with Berry and Drax, Saturday, January 6th at 11 a.m. PST

The friendly rivalry between Draxtor Despres (Drax) and Strawberry Singh (Berry) in our weekly Atlas Hopping adventures in Sansar is a long-running joke on the successful series (now up to nineteen episodes; you can see past episodes by Drax and Berry, who each livestream it to YouTube). I have joined them most Saturdays and it’s been great fun to go explore 3 to 5 new experiences each week, bickering along the way!

For the landmark 20th episode of Atlas Hopping, and the first one of 2018, Drax and Berry are taking their rivalry up another notch—with each being the team captain of two Torley-inspired teams (Pink and Green, of course!) in a first-ever Scavenger Hunt!

Here’s a picture of me and Drax in front of the main instruction board located at Debi Baskerville’s wintertime White Out experience, where the Scavenger Hunt will be held on Saturday, January 6th, at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time/Sansar Time. Meet at our usual meetup place for Atlas Hopping, 114 Harvest, and then we will all head over to White Out!

Ryan and Drax 1

To participate, you must go over to Debi Baskerville’s store and pick up your FREE sweatshirt (male or female). Because you won’t know ahead of time which team you will be assigned to (Green or Pink), you must get BOTH sweatshirts! Going into Lookbook to do a quick change of your wardrobe before the hunt is a simple task to perform.

Debi's Store 5 Jan 2018.png

Show up at our usual starting point for Atlas Hopping, Drax and Ria’s experience 114 Harvest (if you decide to go straight to White Out, that is okay, too, but it would be easier if we all met up at the usual gathering spot to avoid confusion).

If you are planning on joining this event, you will want to load the Sansar client and visit both the 114 Harvest and White Out experiences to have them preloaded in your cache for a smoother experience. You can install the Sansar client, if you don’t already have it, at https://www.sansar.com/download.

If you’d rather watch the fun and chaos unfold instead of participating, go to this link for Drax’s YouTube livestream of the event: LIVE from 114 Harvest: Atlas Hopping Episode 20 [Scavenger Edition] (I assume Strawberry will be livestreaming this event as well; I will provide a link, when I have one, to add her livestream to this blogpost.)

UPDATE 8:10 a.m.: Debi Baskerville raises an important point:

Keep in mind that I will be re-saving White Out just prior to the beginning of Atlas Hopping when I hide all the objects. We don’t want people to be able to come in and find the objects too soon. :smiley:
So for those wanting to precache the experience, please do so no sooner than 10 minutes before the event begins. Thanks! :smiley: So excited to play this game with all of you!

Twitch, YouTube, and VRChat

According to a recent online article by Polygon, a website that covers the gaming industry, The social VR world VRChat has attracted a lot of attention recently because of YouTubers and Twitch streamers:

Considering that VRChat is only available on Vive and Oculus Rift, the player base is still limited. The reason VRChat has skyrocketed in popularity is because of YouTubers and Twitch streamers who have brought attention to the game. One YouTuber in particular, Nagzz21, uploads near daily videos with his time in VRChat. These include weird dating scenarios, oblong takes on popular gaming avatars, drama happening between players and groups in VRChatand exploring all the different realms.

His videos have become so popular that VRChat Inc. has subscribed to him and promoted a view of his videos.

Unlike Sansar, which has focused so far on human avatars, VRChat (like High Fidelity) allows users to create non-human avatars (which requires some level of technical skill). The Polygon article notes:

Watch any VRChat video and there’s one thing that sticks out: It’s chockfull of characters that you already know. There are strange versions of Spongebob Squarepants, Pickle Rick from Rick and Morty, an assortment of Pokémon and too many anime characters to name.

This is one of VRChat’s biggest draws. Using a combination of character models, VRChat Inc.’s software development kit and Unity, players can create their own (unauthorized) avatars based on other popular figures from games, television, anime and movies.

…Multiple characters from popular culture, including Hank Hill from King of the Hill and Pikachu from Pokémon, can be seen interacting with one another. Players are able to pet Pikachu and Pokémon trainers can be seen in the distance. Much of the game’s appeal comes from players recklessly mixing and matching characters from various franchises and assuming their persona, virtually. Think cosplaying but without the expensive costume and in the comfort of your own home.

Obviously, this feature is a massive draw for some people. I’ve even had one Facebook commenter state that she will be making avatars for VRChat exactly because of that freedom to create whatever kind of avatar she wants, rather than create for Sansar. Of course, there is rampant IP theft happening in VRChat; the lawyers are going to have a field day if somebody tries to sell a Pikachu or Mickey Mouse avatar! Right now, it’s the wild west in VRChat, and everything is being given away for free.

Anyway, I thank what Sansar really needs is a few Twitch or YouTube livestreamers with a sufficiently large audience. For example, the phenomenally popular YouTube personality PewDiePie has posted a video of his VRChat adventures that has pulled in 2,828,337 views so far!

Of course, PewDiePie has over 58 million subscribers and makes millions of dollars from his YouTube channel! If I were to start YouTube livestreaming in Sansar, I would not have nearly the same pull! So the key here is not to get just anybody to start livestreaming Sansar. The key is to get a livestreamer with a large audience to start playing in Sansar.

As I have mentioned before, High Fidelity has already started a handful of livestream shows to promote their social VR world. To date, none has quite taken off like the VRChat streamers’ shows, but hey, at least they’re trying their best.

Of course, Drax and Strawberry’s Atlas Hopping remains relatively popular, and both Strawberry Singh and Draxtor Despres livestream each episode to YouTube. And just this month, Sam and Boden Linden launched another planned monthly show where they visit and comment on Sansar experiences. It’s a promising start.

So, what do you think it would take to get someone like PewDiePie to visit Sansar and livestream it? Anybody have any favours they could pull in??