Pandemic Diary, February 6th, 2021: I Need a Miracle

When my best friend John called me at 12:45 p.m., my iPhone announced his FaceTime call. I groaned, rolled over, and pulled the covers over my head. The winter cold and the pandemic lockdown combined have tipped me over into full-blown hibernation mode, and made me a grumpy, sleepy gay bear.

It is currently -27°C (-16°F) up here in Winnipeg, and with a strong north-west wind, it feels like -44°C (-47°F) with the wind chill. These are the kinds of things that you do not learn from the glossy Travel Manitoba brochures, people.

Even worse, we are expecting a full week of bone-chilling temperatures:

I have learned (and written previously about) how my subconscious sends me messages through song lyrics. At that precise moment when I become aware that I have a particular song running through my head, the lyrics usually have some sort of meaning—something that I’m not consciously thinking about, but which my subconscious is trying to tell me.

Well, on Friday morning, I woke up to this song running through my head:

In other words, my subconscious is telling me: I need a miracle. Or something akin to a miracle, to get me out of this weeks-long period of acedia, depression, and despair, triggered by these unprecedented circumstances. I am having serious trouble getting out of bed and facing the day, and I am having serious trouble feeling motivated to get any work done, both around my house and at work (which, of course, is also “around my house”, as I have been working from home since March 16th, 2020).

I know that a great many other people are struggling, and I also know that I am luckier than most. But honestly, the combination of a bitterly cold patch of Winnipeg winter, combined with the continued province-wide pandemic lockdown (which has been in place since early November), leaves me struggling to cope at times.

Finally out of bed, and low on staples like bread, I decide to bundle up in my down-filled winter parka, don an N95 mask, and head out to warm up the car. My local McDonalds has been closed to in-store dining for three months, but the drive-through is still busy, and I place my order for a burger, fries, and a diet Coke (lunch) and a box of six muffins (breakfast tomorrow, I tell myself, although they will likely all be gone by midnight).

I carefully remove my mask, scrub my hands liberally with hand sanitizer (just in case), and dine in my car, engine running to keep the heat going full blast, in the McDonalds parking lot. This time, when John calls, I pick up, and we chat via FaceTime about how our respective weeks have gone. My day has finally begun, albeit a bit later than usual! And so it goes…I drive home, brew a large pot of coffee, put I Need a Miracle on auto-repeat and crank it, and face whatever challenges come my way.

I hope that you are all taking good care of yourselves and each other in these unprecedented times. Stay strong, say safe, and stay healthy!

UPDATED! Wave, the Social VR Music Platform, Is Shutting Down

Wave (formerly known variously as Wave XR, TheWaveXR, and TheWaveVR) has announced in a notice posted to their Facebook group that they are shutting down their service:

In a message posted today to their Steam page, CEO Adam Arrigo said:

We founded Wave almost five years ago to connect humanity through immersive music experiences. That journey started in the VR space, with our community-driven VR app on Steam, and it’s been rewarding watching our community of creators use our tools to host their own VR concerts. We never foresaw the incredible things people would create, and often attending those shows felt like peering into the future of live music / visual art performance and being blown away by the result.

Two years ago we pivoted out of VR into gaming and live-streaming, as the VR industry didn’t develop as quickly as we’d hoped. Artists need audiences to thrive, and we realized VR just wasn’t there yet, and there was a bigger opportunity for artists outside headsets. Even though it doesn’t fit our current business model, we’ve kept TheWaveVR app and servers running just because the community in there has made such inspiring stuff. Unfortunately, we built the user tools on top of Google Poly, which is shutting down.

As much as we’d love to, we aren’t able to spend the resources to build a new backend pipeline, since we are already spread so thin trying to accomplish our current set of non-VR objectives. We are still a relatively small startup. The hardest part of running a startup is choosing what to focus on, which has led us to the difficult decision to sunset TheWaveVR app on Steam and Oculus.

Even though this means the Wave VR shows will come to a pause, we think this is the best decision for the long term future of the Wave community, and we promise to do everything we can to one day bring back this experience in an even more evolved form. Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts for joining us for all those multi-hour VR raves and for helping us craft this vision of the future of music and art. We hope you’ll join us for this next chapter!

The Lindsey Stirling concert in Wave was a highlight of 2019 for me

I still vividly remember the live Lindsey Stirling concert I attended in Wave as a highlight of my social VR experiences in 2019 (here is my review). Like many companies, Wave had built a social VR platform for music events in anticipation of a sizeable consumer audience with high-end, tethered VR headsets, an audience which largely failed to materialize, leading to a pivot away from VR to gaming and livestreaming concerts.

It is notable that Wave would have kept their social VR platform going, were it not for Google deciding to shutter Google Poly, the 3D object platform on which it relied, which underscores the precariousness of corporations relying on external, third-party tools and services when building a metaverse product. Interestingly, the company had successfully raised $30 million in venture capital only seven months ago.

While I am sad to see Wave fold, I am not surprised. I suspect that we will see several similar announcements from other social VR companies this year.


Thanks to Michael Zhang for the tip!

UPDATE Jan. 16th, 2021: Alex Coulombe tweeted in response to this blogpost:

Ryan, I think your headline is misleading. My understanding is Wave isn’t shutting down, they’re just shutting down the ability to see their concerts in VR. They just launched a new website 3 days ago.

And I wanted to make it clear that Wave is only shutting down their social VR platform, but that they are continuing with their livestreaming business. Sorry for any confusion! I wish the company every success in their future endeavours.

Lil Nas X to Perform Three Virtual Concerts in Roblox on November 14th and 15th, 2020

Following in the footsteps of other game worlds which have hosted virtual concerts (e.g. the Marshmello event in Fortnite on Feb.2nd, 2019), the online game platform Roblox is presenting three performances by Lil Nas X.

Old fart that I am (I’m now almost 57 years old), I actually had to Google “Lil Nas X” to figure out who this person is. Apparently, I have been living in a cave; he is a gay, black rapper who currently holds the record for having the longest-running number-one song on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart since it debuted in 1958. (Ryan sighs, takes another swig of Geritol, and shakes his cane, yelling at those damn kids to get off his lawn.)

The official Roblox blog says:

Get ready because Lil Nas X is going virtual for our first concert experience built and performed exclusively on Roblox on November 13-14! Featuring the debut performance of his new single, this event will also see the Grammy-winning artist bring some of his favorite songs to life like never before.

Tune in for the preshow this Friday at 4 PM PST to watch behind-the-scenes footage from the making of the Roblox concert, along with a special Q&A session. You’ll also get the chance to unlock an exclusive Lil Nas X emote by completing an in-game scavenger hunt!

The preshow will then be followed up with three global concert performances starting Saturday at 1 PM PST. Check out the showtimes below:

Concert Showtimes

– Saturday, November 14th at 1:00 p.m. PST
– Saturday, November 14th at 10:00 p.m. PST
– Sunday, November 15th at 9:00 a.m. PST

The concert venue is now open HERE! Jump in early to pick up limited-edition, Lil Nas X-inspired items for your avatar, including a free Old Town Cowboy Hat! More items will become available leading up to the main event, but get them quick because they won’t be around forever.

This immersive concert experience is the first of its kind on Roblox, featuring Lil Nas X rendered digitally with motion-capture performance. This unique celebration represents our next step in digital music experiences and opens the door for all kinds of incredible experiences. So, set your calendars for November 13-14, and keep an eye on our official TwitterFacebook, and Instagram pages for even more updates about the event as well as the exclusive items that will be available.

I have written about Roblox before on this blog (notably, about the 1867 Luxembourg project, which moved from Second Life to Sansar to Roblox). It’s also on my comprehensive list of social VR platforms and virtual worlds.

I would usually say at this point, “see you there”…but you won’t, because I’m an old fart 😉

Melatopia: the U.K.’s Biggest South Asian Festival Comes to Sansar on November 7th and 8th, 2020

The lineup of performers at Melatopia in Sansar

The 18th edition of London Mela, the U.K. festival of South Asian culture, will be held in a virtual-reality venue created by the same team that brought you the successful Lost Horizon Festival this past July.

As with Lost Horizon, which was seen by four million people in 100 countries, Melatopia viewers will be able to experience live artists, DJs and dance performances in a virtual world created especially for the event, and on a range of platforms, including mobile devices, desktop computers and VR headsets.

There are three main ways to take part in the Melatopia experience:

​1. Sign up for a Twitch TV account and get ready to experience all the incredible Melatopia festival performers. Here’s the channel.

​2. Follow the Melatopia festival on FacebookInstagram or YouTube and stream the whole event there! You could even start a watch party!

​3. If you own a Windows PC, you can download the Sansar client software and experience our virtual reality Mela. Create an avatar and join in the festivities! You can experience Sansar on your computer desktop or in your virtual reality headset (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Valve Index). You can download Sansar from their website, or from Steam. Here’s a somewhat outdated but still useful step-by-step guide for getting started in Sansar for newbies.

Click here to get your free tickets to the event, and check the official Melatopia website for concert details, performer lineups, and news. (Please note all times on the website are given in London, Greenwich Mean Time/GMT, so be sure to convert to your local time zone!)

The official press release follows. See you there!



Event:
Melatopia

Dates: Saturday 07 & Sunday 08 November 2020

Times: 15:00 – 03:00 (3PM to 3AM) GMT

Venue: www.londonmela.org the gateway to MELATOPIA within Sansar the global VR leader in live events

Melatopia streams live on Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube

The 18th edition of South Asian culture-fest, London Mela will be held online and virtually for the first time ever on 7-8 November 2020. Founders Ajay Chhabra and Julian Rudd reinvent the much-loved festival as a digital and virtual reality event; Melatopia, featuring South Asian music, dance, food, and culture for a one-of-a-kind festival experience within an immersive VR experience in Sansar.

Usually performed at the festival’s home in Southall Park, London Mela organisers have embraced the digital realm with the first Virtual Reality Mela ever staged, to keep everyone safe during COVID 19.

The award-winning event’s partners Nutkhut, Mela Partnership and Remarkable Productions join forces with Shangri-La’s Lost Horizon Festival to create a new online virtual reality venue, MELATOPIA, which is built using Sansar, Wookey Technologies’cutting-edge, photorealistic platform for virtual live events and can be experienced on PC, VR or mobile (iOS), plus will be streamed live on Twitch and across social media.

Audiences will be able to experience live artists, dance performances and DJs in an extraordinary VR online space specially created for the Mela. Whether viewed on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or wearing VR glasses, audiences will be able to engage with the performances and each other in new and innovative ways. Viewers are encouraged to book 7/8 November out in their diaries and invite friends and family to an online watch party. COVID 19 has stopped audiences visiting the Mela in London, so the London Mela will come to them wherever they are in our great city and wherever they are in the world.

The London Mela is best known for its adventurous programming and genre-crossing collaborations from an incredible mix of household names and contemporary artists. This year will be no different with US/Indian rapper The Raja Kumari headlining the show. In support we have an incredible collaboration between Juggy D and Pandit Ram Sahai Sangeet Vidhyalaya (PRSSV), 5 Tabla players from Singh Sabha Southall Education Centre in Southall.

Pop sensation and BBC Future Music Artist Celina Sharma features as well as Roma Sagar and Rio Jai. Panjabi Hit Squad promise to get the audience jumping around their front rooms with a barnstorming set. No Mela is complete without qawwali and the Mela is proud to present Chand Ali Khan, one of the UK’s most exciting qawwali talents, complete with 7-piece live band. Rounding of this first announcement, London Mela presents the legendary Panjabi MC, producer of the seminal Mundian To Bach Ke, possibly the greatest crossover dance tune from the South Asian diaspora.

All artists featured in Melatopia will be recorded exclusively for the event.

London Mela (source)