Which Social VR Platform Has Been the Most Successful at Raising Money?

Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay

There’s been a very interesting discussion taking place today on the RyanSchultz Discord server. One of the regular contributors to the many conversations that take place there, Michael Zhang, pulled together the following information from Crunchbase:

Today I Learned: Building social VR, MMOs, and virtual worlds are a lot more expensive than I imagined!

From Crunchbase:

-High Fidelity raised $72.9 million over five rounds and is struggling with their recent pivot to enterprise.
-Rec Room raised $29 million over two rounds, $24 million only recently, so they lived off of $5 million for several years.
-Altspace raised $15.7 million over three rounds, went bankrupt and shut down, then revived when bought by Microsoft.
-Bigscreen raised $14 million over two rounds.
-TheWaveVR raised $12.5 million over three rounds.
-vTime raised $7.6 million over one round.
-VRChat raised $5.2 million over two rounds.
-JanusVR raised $1.6 million over two rounds.
-Somnium Space raised $1 million over two rounds.

In comparison:

-Epic Games raised $1.6 billion over two rounds, $1.25 billion coming after Fortnite.
-Mojang’s Minecraft launched in 2003, started making profits in 2007, earned $237.7 million in revenue by 2012, and sold to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. (Wikipedia)
-Roblox raised $187.5 million over seven rounds.
-Linden Lab’s Second Life raised $19 million over two rounds.

Then, another contributor named Jin put together this graph to illustrate how successful the various social VR platforms have been in raising venture capital (please click on this picture to see it in full size on Flickr, or just click here). As you can see, High Fidelity is far and away the leader in raising money!

Social VR Platforms Raising Money

(In comparison, Decentraland raised 24 million dollars in their initial coin offering. Jin also made a second chart including Decentraland, but I have not included it here because, unlike the other platforms, it does not currently support VR, and it is unlikely to do so anytime in the near future.)

Thank you to Michael Zhang and to Jin for their work!

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JanusVR: A Brief Introduction

JanusVR is an interesting and different proposition for a social VR platform: a reimagining of webpages as collaborative 3D webspaces interconnected by portals. Started by James McCrae and Karan Singh in December 2014, it is named after the two-faced Roman god of passages.

I first explored JanusVR back in 2017 when I first got my Oculus Rift VR headset, but I never got around to writing about it for my blog until today. Here’s a brief promotional video for the project:

According to their press kit:

We are proud [to] introduce a major release of JanusVR, an immersive web browsing and design platform that reinvents the Internet as a connected network of 3-dimensional spaces. Users can experience JanusVR using virtual reality devices like the Oculus Rift, or on a conventional computer. 

JanusVR completely transforms Internet surfing, providing users with a multi-dimensional, collaborative browsing and building experience. 

Through JanusVR, websites become 3D spaces interconnected by portals. Users navigate, explore, collaborate and create content through a combination of traditional keyboard-and-mouse input, controllers, voice and gestures. 

“Internet content has moved well beyond traditional text, image and video,” said Karan Singh, a computer science professor at the University of Toronto and JanusVR’s co-creator. “Now people can experience rich three-dimensional models, animations, immersive audio and video, and amazing data visualizations in an intuitive VR context.” 

When you start off in JanusVR, you spawn in a pavilion filled with portals. Each experience in JanusVR has its own URL associated with it, just like a regular webpage. Just click on the portal, and wait a few seconds for it to load, then walk right through the door into a different experience!

JanusVR pavilion with portals to other experiences
(you can visit on your computer desktop here)
The Eternal Lab (you can visit on the desktop here)

The following video demonstrates how you can even teleport from JanusVR to Cryptovoxels! (Notice that your JanusVR avatar appearance does not come with you, though. Once you cross over, you appear as the default Cryptovoxels avatar.)

JanusVR is part of a project which comprises a complete suite of free programs, including web.janusvr.com (a WebGL-based version of the JanusVR client which runs in your web browser) and Vesta, a free web-hosting and content-sharing community.

You should know that JanusVR can still be bit buggy. I installed the client via the Oculus Store but it would not run for me, so I uninstalled it and tried downloading it from Steam. That version worked for me. Some experiences do take a while to load. And I did crash out of the program completely at least once. But you really can go down the rabbit hole in JanusVR, following portal after portal in much the same way as you follow link and link in the Web!

If you are interested in this project, you can follow JanusVR on Twitter and Facebook. You can also join their Discord server. And if you want to learn how to build in JanusVR, there is documentation available online. There’s also a GitHub for the project.

Traveling Between Social VR Platforms: Does VR Market Success Depend Upon a Seamless, Interconnected Metaverse?

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One of the people I follow on Twitter is Ben Lang, who is the co-founder and executive editor of the popular virtual reality news website Road to VR. Yesterday, he posted:

I’m starting to think that VR won’t have its consumer mainstream moment (smartphone levels of adoption) until a comprehensive metaverse emerges that interconnects and makes *all* VR content social to some extent. Stuff like this awesome immersive music video is really freaking cool, but would be 100 times richer if discoverable through something a simple as a ‘VR hyperlink’, as well as easily being able to bring a friend along to experience it. Telling a friend ‘hey there’s this cool new thing, come check it out with me’, and then asking them to download an app and then coordinating a time to get online together to invite each other and then *finally* seeing the thing for 10 mins isn’t tenable for smaller experiences.

The immersive music video he refers to is a new free VR experience on Steam called Sheaf – Together EP, and it’s truly a wonderful, relaxing experience, which I can recommend highly:

Ben is making the point that it shouldn’t be so difficult to share VR experiences such as this with friends. And a seamless, interconnected metaverse would probably give a huge boost to the consumer VR market.

Another Twitter user called Matrixscene responded to Ben, with a link to a two-part report on how a metaverse working group did a field test for traversing disparate virtual worlds to see how they interconnect with each other.

Part 1 of the report gives several examples of links or portals between social VR experiences, for example:

  • Portal links in JanusVR
  • Links in Cryptovoxels to other WebVR sites

Part 2 of the report details a “field trip” the author and several other people undertook to see how well they could navigate between various virtual worlds. The places visited included:

The author, Jin (Madjin) writes:

We were communicating over Discord’s voice chat the entire time. Anarchy Arcade served as the most premium base reality we ventured to on this trip for several main reasons:
– Shortcuts were easy to launch
– Universally compatible
– Optimized heavily in the background

So, as you can see, the first tentative steps in cross-linking virtual worlds have already been taken. However, the work of creating a much more comprehensive and seamless metaverse to benefit VR consumers still faces many significant hurdles—including a patent filed by IBM in 2008 that appears to cover teleporting avatars between disparate virtual worlds.

How soon do you think it will be until we get a truly seamless VR metaverse? Or do you think it will never happen? As always, you are invited to join the ongoing conversations on this and many other topics on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the first cross-worlds discussion group!

High Fidelity and JanusVR Announce the Virtual Reality Blockchain Alliance

VRBA.jpeg

Remember that blogpost I wrote, way back when, about the idea of the Universal Avatar? Well, we seem to be one step closer to that today.

Philip Rosedale, the visionary founder of Second Life and CEO of High Fidelity, has just announced that JanusVR and High Fidelity have founded the Virtual Reality Blockchain Alliance (VRBA), “a group dedicated to establishing a universal digital identity built on the blockchain and outside the control of any specific corporate entity.” He goes on to say:

As a member of VRBA, Janus will host a node of the High Fidelity blockchain and have the ability not just to read from the ledger but to register assets and record transactions on it as well.

As a member of VRBA, Janus will recognize avatar identities created in High Fidelity, and equally personas created within Janus will transfer to High Fidelity. Users of both services will be able to control what information they share or keep private for each experience and tailor how they present themselves. Together we’ll add more features to our identity platform to help build trust as people traverse VR.

Soon High Fidelity users can bring their virtual goods to Janus, along with ownership rights — the precursor to avatars and property moving effortlessly from world to world.

Janus is also developing a Blockchain Explorer that will allow people to view and render their assets, regardless of which service they used to buy them. You’ll no longer have some of your stuff on one platform, some of it on another. It’s just your stuff, everywhere you go.

High Fidelity Coin (HFC) is our cryptocurrency for peer-to-peer transactions and purchases on the High Fidelity Marketplace. Janus will soon support HFC in its digital wallet, meaning anyone will be able to purchase Janus content using HFC. We’re creating a kind of ‘HFC free-trade zone’ between all the virtual worlds on both platforms.

JanusVR, a decentralized service which re-imagines webpages as collaborative three-dimensional webspaces interconnected by portals, also had a statement on their website of this new alliance. It states:

Fundamentally, Janus builds a universe of virtual worlds from the decentralized platform of the web itself. The use of blockchain technology is the next logical step, as it provides a meaningful solution to an important problem: portability of identity between virtual worlds. Such portability enables many new capabilities, for example: avatars that provide a consistent appearance between worlds, or enabling transactions with cryptocurrencies or any other kind of digital asset, with transactions occurring in-world or even between-world. All of this data will exist within a decentralized, public, secure network that will itself allow open exploration and visualization (something we are very enthusiastic about working on).

Of course, there’s still a bit of skepticism in some quarters about how well blockchain technology will stand up in actual virtual world use. It’s a fascinating debate, well worth following. Philip Rosedale is obviously a big believer in the blockchain. Maybe his bet will pay off.

And maybe—just maybe—the day of the Universal Avatar isn’t as far away as it once appeared to be…