Hyperfair VR: A Brief Introduction

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Hyperfair VR bills itself as “Social VR for the Enterprise”, and it is squarely targeted at businesses who wish to create a social VR presence. The website offers a free browser-based demo, and also says you can contact them for a demo with VR headsets. Everything I saw here was virtual world environments you would visit on your desktop. Their virtual world platform reminds me a lot of OpenSim and early, pre-mesh Second Life. Here is what my avatar looks like:

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There’s a four-year-old video on the website which gives an overview of Hyperfair.

Another YouTube video extols the value of setting up a Hyperfair VR Site for businesses:

And finally here’s a more recent video showing their new Android app:

Looking through the Hyperfair VR website and wandering through their demo world gives me a weird sense of déjà vu. Second Life went through a period (around 2006-2007) where many real-life companies, like American Apparel and Playboy, trooped in and set up shop. Almost all of those corporations left after a year or two, not seeing any real value for their investment of time and money in SL:

Mentions of Second Life first crept into the UK media mainstream in early 2006.

A year later, newspapers fell over themselves to cover it, devoting many column inches in their business, technology and lifestyle sections to profiles and trend pieces. By the end of 2007 Second Life had secured more than 600 mentions in UK newspapers and magazines, according to the media database Lexis Nexis.

IBM bought property in 2006, American Apparel opened a shop the same summer, Reuters installed avatar journalist Adam Pasick – also known as Adam Reuters – to report on virtual happenings, and countries established virtual embassies.

The number of people joining the site jumped from 450,000 to four million in 2007.

But just as quickly as it had flared, media interest ebbed away. References plummeted by 40% in 2008 and dropped further this year. And businesses diverted their resources back to real life.

American Apparel closed its shop just one year after opening. Reuters pulled its correspondent in October 2008. When asked about his virtual experience, Pasick says: “It isn’t a subject we like to revisit.”

Not much, says Wired UK editor-at-large Ben Hammersley, and that was the problem.

“You could go and open these stores and no-one would turn up,” he says.

“They would have 20 to 30 people there when it opened, and after that no-one would bother going in there again. It just wasn’t worth the spend.”

And I don’t see anything especially different from Second Life in the Hyperfair VR platform, so I would suspect they are going to have exactly the same problem attracting—and keeping—corporate clients. The problem is further compounded by the fact that Second Life was and is a relatively well-known and popular virtual world, whereas Hyperfair VR is a little-known (and presumably little-used) platform.

Given all this, I think that Hyperfair is going to be fighting an uphill battle to attract  corporate attention and customers.