UPDATED: What’s Holding Social VR Back?

clouds-1845517_1920
Image by Pexels on Pixabay

I was very recently invited to join a Facebook group called Cefima, which was started by the Norwegian Film School. The purpose of the group is to explore immersive narratives, and a recent post to this group alerted me to a great editorial blogpost by the Norwegian architect, 3D artist and VR designer Kim Baumann Larsen.

Titled Social VR—The Invisible Superpower, Kim talks about his recent experiences in TheWaveVR and Sansar, and wonders why they are not more popular:

This afternoon I spent an hour hanging out with legendary French electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre, and together we watched an amazing never seen before and impossible to do in real life VJ set with other fan girls and boys. It was a social VR experience in TheWaveVR and the DJ and VJ was Sutu Eats Flies, famous in his own right for his gigs on this emerging social music VR platform. You would think there would have been hundreds, if not thosuands of fans of Jarre’s music attending such an event that enabled anyone to walk up to the legend, to become virtually friends with him and to casually converse, but the instance I was in contained merely a couple of dozen of people.

Just a few days earlier in Sansar, another social VR platform, I had woken up at 4 am to catch a virtual comedy show titled Comedy Gladiators, in which comedian and YouTube sensation Steve Hofstetter brought friends and fellow comedians Maz Jobrani, Ben Gleib, Alonzo Bodden, and Mary-Lynn Rajskub into VR. There were more people at the comedy show than at the concert but not by a long stretch. While I don’t know how many instances of either shows that were running in parallel, it is obvious that whatever people are using their VR headsets for these days it is mostly not involving social VR.

With both Sansar and VRChat recently available on Steam, the latter being the by far largest platform for social VR, figures are emerging that show just how few people are in a social VR at a given moment. While Steam is not the only distribution platform for VR, there is Oculus of course and several of the apps can be launched outside of Steam and Oculus, the numbers are quite telling. On Steam this past Sunday 9 people were seen in High Fidelity, 12 in Altspace VR, 62 in Sansar, 79 in Bigscreen (Beta), 340 in RecRoom, and 8098 in VRChat.

He goes on to speculate on the reasons for this:

Ask most any one who is working in virtual reality where the future is for VR and most will say that while it is hard to speculate and give a definitive answer it will most certainly involve some kind of social VR. So why aren’t people flocking to these experiences then? The first problem is that VR gear is still rather expensive and the power of VR and of social VR in particular can’t be understood unless it is experienced first hand. The problem with that is that there aren’t many places one can experience it in public and most people doesn’t happen to have a friend or colleague with VR gear nearby.

The second problem is that we have become accustomed to asynchronous communication via platforms like Facebook, Twitter and SMS being the de facto way of communicating long distance and media-on-demand is how most people fit entertainment into their increasingly busy life. Meeting up virtually at specific days and times it seems requires too much of an effort.

And, I must admit, I myself had not thought too much about the synchronous nature of social VR and how we have as a society become more accustomed to asynchronous forms of communication like Facebook and Twitter. As for the cost, I do believe that that is only a temporary problem, as the cost of VR equipment keeps decreasing over time.

It’s an interesting take on why social VR is not attracting much attention (yet), and I would urge you to go over to Kim’s blog, KIMSARC, and read the entire post for yourself.

UPDATE Dec. 18th: Tech blogger Robert Scoble commented on a cross-posting of this blogpost to the Virtual Reality group on Facebook, raising another good reason that people don’t like social VR: the obnoxious behaviour of trolls.

I got offered a sex act within seconds of arriving in one. Most people are tired of interacting with strangers. For that reason and others.

I have blogged about this topic previously: Why Women Don’t Like Social VR. Culture and behaviour researcher Jessica Outlaw has done market research which shows that some women avoid social VR precisely because they feel vulnerable and, at times, unsafe. This is still a topic which is not really getting the attention it deserves, in my opinion.

cyber-glasses-1938449_1920
Image by pixel2013 on Pixabay
Advertisements

TheWaveVR: A Brief Introduction

 

TheWaveVR 2.png

Well, what do you know? Quite by accident, I noticed that TheWaveVR was listed under the free apps in the Oculus Store, so I downloaded and installed the client software. Up until now, I haven’t been able to access TheWaveVR because I’m in Canada and it had been restricted to Americans only. I guess they changed that recently!

TheWaveVR is a social VR platform that is all about music. It describes itself as:

TheWaveVR is a platform for people who love music, enabling them to view, host, and socialize in shows world wide, anytime, anywhere.

We’re empowering artists and music lovers alike by transforming the way people connect through music.

Music creators can fully customize how their audience experiences the music – whether it’s by transforming the venue from a realistic nightclub to outer space with a click of a button – or putting on the most unimaginable light show ever.

Fans won’t have to travel the globe or miss out on their favorite DJs, musicians or festivals and can experience the music like never before, while socializing in totally new ways alongside their friends.

TheWaveVR is quite the trippy experience! You can visit your own personal space, which is called a cave, set up different visual effects (lasers, tentacles, etc.) and play tracks on turntables in your very own DJ booth! I also visited three different shows, each with different, creative, mesmerizing visual displays that act and react to the music and your hand controllers. I encountered quite a few other avatars as well in my travels. It was great fun! It’s very easy to learn how to navigate.

There’s a calendar of user-created parties called Waves, which you can join.

Here’s an early access launch trailer from a year ago:

Recently, TheWaveVR teamed up with The Glitch Mob to transform their third album, See Without Eyes, into a fly-through VR experience:

TheWaveVR has a website, they have an active Discord server, and they are also on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. I’ll leave you with a three-hour video of TheWaveVR in action. I think what you can do, even though it’s still in beta, is pretty impressive!

Ceek: A Brief Introduction

Ceek 5 July 2018.png

Ceek is yet another blockchain-based VR app that has ambitious plans to offer live concert events and other experiences:

CEEK VR simulates the communal experience of attending a live concert, being in a classroom, attending a sporting event and other “money can’t buy” exclusive experiences with friends anywhere at anytime. CEEK VR creates, curates and distributes Virtual Reality content for top-class partners using patented headsets and CEEK’s VR platform.

The website is full of references to big-name musical artists such as Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. A YouTube promotional video explains how blockchain technology is used on the Ceek platform:

Here’s a second promotional video, showing some of the VR venues within Ceek:

The Ceek token sale website has more information. Ceek alrready has a partnership with Universal Music:

CEEK VR, Inc.’s partnership agreement with Universal Music Group grants rights to live performances with top tier artists including Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, U2, Sting, Neyo and more! CEEK has upcoming releases with major studios and influential producers.

CEEK’s mobile ready, VR headset is sold at major retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, Target and includes a $10.00 iTunes reward gift code with purchase.

CEEK VR is a distributor of cryptographically authenticated immersive content and merchandise. CEEK’s device agnostic platform is compatible with smartphones, Smart TV’s, desktop, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality devices. CEEK’s world class partners include Universal Music, Apple and T-Mobile.

CEEK Tokens are governed by Ethereum Smart Contracts, allowing token holders ability for flexible, tokenized ‘in-world’ interactions, rewards, voting, contests, virtual goods and other transactions utilizing ERC20 compliant Tokens called CEEK.

At the moment, Ceek does not appear to support either the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR headsets, Windows Mixed Reality headsets, or Gear VR, although they have issued a press release that they plan to offer support sometime later this summer:

With the mission to be the first to reach one billion “CEEKERS” of content and exciting experiences, CEEK VR will be introducing new environments which will include photorealistic avatars…debuting this summer for ROBLOX in VR, GEAR VR, OCULUS VR, AND MICROSOFT mixed reality headsets.

The Ceek website currently only offers two VR viewer options: a Ceek-branded VR headset for US$99.99, which works with your existing cellphone, as well as a US$14.99 Megadeath-branded cardboard headset, which also works with your cellphone :

Ceek 2 5 July 2018.png

Here’s an unboxing and hands-on review video of the Ceek headset:

I downloaded the Ceek app to my iPhone to test it out (it’s also available for Android devices). It offers two ways for you to view content, either a 360-degree display or the use of the Ceek VR headset:

IMG_1848.PNG

Since I don’t have the Ceek VR headset, I chose the first option. Bascially, you get a sort of heads-up display that looks like this:

IMG_1849.PNG

What I found incredibly annoying was a pop-up window that appeared over the HUD, which I could not clear:

IMG_1850.PNG

I eventually gave up in frustration. I have no idea how well the Ceek VR headset works, but the app seems pretty useless without it.

It would appear that Ceek still has a few bugs to iron out. I’d check back in 6 to 12 months to see what progress has been made.

Second Life Machinima: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

The following wonderful machinima (i.e., a video made within Second Life) is by Tiara Ashley, who has a whole YouTube channel full of cleverly-made music videos:

I first heard about Tiara’s work via Wagner James Au of New World Notes. And I agree with Wagner; more people need to know about this! So I am blogging her video here.