It’s Time to Upgrade My Home Computer: Anybody Have Any Good Recommendations on What to Buy for the Best VR Experience?

I’ve got my eye on this little number by Acer, which is currently in stock, although I’m wondering if I should upgrade the RAM from 16GB to 32GB…

*sigh*

I’ve held it off as long as I can, but it’s time to face facts: it’s time to upgrade the four-year-old desktop computer I use at home. I bought it in December of 2016, based on the computer specifications at the time for my trusty Oculus Rift, and it still met the minimum specifications when I upgraded my Rift to a Valve Index earlier this year.

But the Vive Facial Tracker that I eagerly bought makes my Intel Core i5-6600 CPU running at 3.30GHz cry, so it now sits sadly in its little box on my computer desk. The final straw was when I kept crashing while in NeosVR today (sans facial tracker) while Joris Weijdom was giving me a guided tour of the interesting, postmodernist immersive theatre work projects he is involved with at the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht. After several successive embarrassing crashes, we had to resort to using video chat on Discord!

So yes, it’s time (at least, if I want to continue using NeosVR, which I do). The recommended specs for the Valve Index are brief (and no, I am not aiming for the minimum; I want whatever I buy to last me for at least three years):

Minimum

  • OS: Windows 10, SteamOS, Linux
  • Processor: Dual Core with Hyper-Threading
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 / AMD RX480
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Additional Notes: Available DisplayPort (Version1.2) and USB (2.0+) Port required

Recommended

  • Processor: Quad Core+
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 or better
  • Additional Notes: Available USB (3.0+) Port required for Headset Pass-Through Camera

Fortunately, I already have a computer store picked out (the same place I bought my last PC from, a suitably übergeeky place where all the salespeople can comfortably and confidently sling computer acronyms with the best of them. The shortage of computer chips caused by the current boom in cryptocurrency mining might cause some problems, though; most of the higher-end gaming machines I have my eye on are back ordered, according to my preferred store’s website. I’ll probably drive across town tomorrow and see what they have in stock that meets the recommended PC requirements for my Valve Index. There’s not really a rush; the only platform I am having problems with right now is NeosVR.

But I decided to write this blogpost and ask you, my readers: what Windows PC specs do you recommend for a higher-end virtual reality setup?

If you have any recommendations (or links to helpful resources to help me draw up my shopping list), please leave a comment on this blogpost, drop me a line via the Contact Me page, or ping me on the RyanSchultz.com Discord (or any of the other social VR/virtual worlds Discord servers we might have in common). Thanks!

To Teleport or Not to Teleport: Teleporting Versus Walking in the Metaverse

Ever wish you could teleport in real life?
(Photo by Chris Briggs on Unsplash)

Earlier this week, I had a guided tour of the blockchain-based social VR platform Somnium Space, where I was informed by my tour guide that the virtual world had just implemented teleporting. Scattered throughout the one large, contiguous virtual landscape which comprises Somnium Space were teleporter hubs, where you could pull up a map, click on the teleporter hub you wanted to travel to, press a button, et voilà! You were instantly transported to your destination.

A teleporter hub in the central city square of Somnium Space (at night)
The red arrows indicate the location of teleporter hubs on the map

What makes Somnium Space unusual among metaverse platforms is that you cannot simply teleport from one place to another distant location; you either must make use of the provided teleporters, or walk/run/fly/swim to your destination. (Of course, you can certainly “short hop” using a limited form of teleporting, but that is only for shorter distances, not for instantly getting from one end of a large, contiguous landmass to another.)

In other words, the teleporter hubs of the Somnium Transportation System are set up much like a modern urban subway system, where you can only travel to a particular, pre-built subway station that is situated the nearest to your intended destination, and then walk the rest of the way. Many people might remember that in the very earliest days of Second Life, there were also teleporter hubs in the days before avatars could instantly teleport themselves from one location to another!

Another thing that sets Somnium Space apart from other social VR platforms is that there are only going to be so many “public” teleporter hubs. In face, some of these hubs are going to be auctioned off as NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), and the successful bidders with such a teleporter hub on their properties will be able to charge a cryptocurrency fee in order to use their teleporters! (In other words, they would operate much the same as a real-life toll road or highway.)

Closely intertwined with the idea of teleporting vs. walking is the layout of a metaverse platform. Is it one large contiguous landmass, like Somnium Space, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, and (to a certain extent) Second Life? Or is it a collection of smaller worlds, like VRChat, Rec Room, Sansar, and Sinespace? If it is the former, then means of transportation (and ease of access to transportation) becomes more important. If it is the latter, then another tool which many of the newer social VR platforms offer is the ability to create a portal—either temporary or permanent— between two worlds. (Of course, you could consider a teleporter hub a portal.)

So, keeping all this in mind (particularly the distinction between SHORT HOP teleporting and teleporting to a DISTANT location), we can create a chart outlining the transportation affordances of the various metaverse platforms:

Name of Platform (Layout)Walk/Run? *Distance
Teleport?
**
Create Portals?
Second Life (mostly one contiguous landmass, with private islands)YESYESYES
Sinespace (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Sansar (separate worlds)YESNO (but you can create teleport hubs)YES
VRChat (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Rec Room (separate worlds)YESNOYES
AltspaceVR (separate worlds)YESNOYES
NeosVR (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Cryptovoxels (one contiguous landmass with some islands) YESNO (you can add coordinates to a URL, though)YES
Decentraland (one contiguous landmass) YESYES (/goto X,Y)NO
Somnium Space (one contiguous landmass)YESNO (but there are teleport hubs)NO (unless you count teleport hubs)
* – Can a user walk/run/fly/swim from one location to another? This includes SHORT HOP teleporting.
** – Can a user personally choose to teleport from one location to a second, DISTANT location?
† – Can a user create a temporary or permanent portal from one location to another?

Obviously, all metaverse platforms offer some form of personal locomotion for your avatar (walk, run, fly, swim, short-hop teleporting, etc.). This is standard.

It is also clear from this table that the metaverse platforms which consist of many smaller worlds (Sinespace, Sansar, VRChat, Rec Room, AltspaceVR, and NeosVR) all prefer the creation of temporary and permanent portals to allowing users to teleport great distances on their own steam. On the other hand, all the social VR platforms and virtual worlds which consist of one contiguous landmass tend to allow some form of teleportation across great distances.

You will notice that Cryptovoxels uses a rather brute-force method of “teleporting”, which consists of appending the coordinates to the end of the URL you enter into your web browser client (which are much the same as the coordinates which form part of the SLURLs used in Second Life, but not nearly as convenient in my opinion).

Transportation affordances are yet another way to classify metaverse platforms in my continuing effort to create a taxonomy of social VR platforms and virtual worlds.

So, what do you think? Have I made an error in my table? Do you have an opinion about the benefits of teleporting and portals versus walking around and exploring the landscape? I’d love to hear your opinions, so please leave a comment, thank you!

An Amazing Demonstration of Full-Body Tracking (Including the Eyes and Mouth!) in NeosVR

I found this video so amazing, that I asked the creator (June) if I could share it with you, my blog readers! Here’s a link to his original tweet.

Every single movement of the shark avatar in this one-and-a-half minute machinima (i.e. a video shot in a virtual world), right down to eyes and the mouth, is controlled directly by the user! Even more amazing, he was the sole cameraman!

The eyes are controlled by where the user looks (in a Vive Pro Eye VR headset); the mouth and lower face are controlled by the Vive Facial Tracker attached to the bottom of the headset; the hands and fingers are controlled using Valve Knuckles controllers; and the movements of the lower part of the body are controlled by Vive Pucks attached to the body at the hips and feet!

June says:

Did a full performance of “Crazy for Me” in NeosVR! Everything was recorded in real time audio, tracking, camera work, everything! All within the NeosVR game engine. This was done with 3 2.0 Vive Trackers, a Vive Pro Eye, Vive Facial Tracker, and Valve Index Controllers! This took about 17 takes to get it just right! Feel free to post about this anywhere as long as you link the video with any one of my socials!

I swear, if people in Second Life knew that they could control their entire avatar like this, there would be a stampede to buy VR headsets and head to NeosVR! There’s zero need for animation overrides or any prerecorded animations!

If you’re interested in seeing more of this, you can follow June on Twitter! If you want more information on NeosVR, you can visit their website here, or click here to see all the blogposts tagged NeosVR which I have written to date.

I have finally received a bracket I ordered from Japan to properly attach my Vive Facial Tracker to my Valve Index VR headset, so I am quite looking forward to being able to animate my lower face and mouth soon! (No eye animation or lower body animation for me yet, though…maybe someday!)

One very witty person with whom I had shared this video said:

I aspire to one day be the most tracked human in VR (but then again all Quest users are already there).

Ooh! NURSE!!! Shots fired! 😉

Goofing Around in NeosVR (Plus a Look at the Vive Facial Tracker in Action)

PLEASE NOTE: My blog is still on indefinite hiatus; I have made a single exception for this blogpost. After this, I am returning to my self-imposed break from blogging.


Overall, the fact that I can have an expressive, fully animated avatar inside a metaverse is blowing my mind.

—Ari Tarr

Not too long ago, I was invited by Carlos Austin and Jason Moore to pay a long-overdue visit to NeosVR, where we met up with XRiEL (a.k.a. Ari Tarr), went over to Jason’s workshop, tried on some cool avatars, and rode some fun vehicles!

Here’s the full one-and-a-quarter hour video which Carlos kindly posted to YouTube:

Enjoy! As you can tell we had a lot of fun. Carlos was the cameraman capturing the shenanigans, and we were later joined by iBrews (a.k.a. Alex Coulombe). This video also makes a great introduction to NeosVR if you have never visited before! Of particular interest is Ari showing just how easy it is to rig an avatar within NeosVR:

Jason showing Ari how to rig an avatar in NeosVR
Ari attempting to rig the rest of his body (after the head and hands were done)

Thanks to Jason, Ari, Carlos, and Alex for a wonderful afternoon! I had to bow out a little early (at the 50-minute mark in this video) to avoid becoming VR sick, but the antics continued after I departed!

At the 53-minute mark, XRiEL/Ari demonstrates what he can do with his avatar, wearing a Vive Eye Pro VR headset with eye tracking, the Vive Facial Tracker, plus Valve Index hand and finger trackers, and also three Vive pucks attached to his hip and both his feet. Yes, his eyes and mouth are mirroring his facial motion in real time!