My half-hour presentation on virtual reality in higher education (with an emphasis on social VR), which I gave to my university’s Senate Committee on Academic Computing, was well received. As promised, here is a copy of my PowerPoint slides from yesterday’s presentation (60 slides, 191MB in size; it’s so large because I included a number of animated GIFs). I would have liked to embed my slides into this blogpost, but the various ways I tried unfortunately failed to work. You will have to download the slides and run them on your own computer!
I had been sorely tempted to set this so that you had to join my Patreon in order to get it, which would have cost you at least $1.00, but in the end I decided that it would be seen by more people if I made it free to download. However, I do reserve the right at a future point to start doing this for some of my content! From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank my Patreon patrons; their support means the world to me! I am going to rack my brains to see if I can come up with new perks for you!
Mark your calendars! I have been invited to give a presentation to a Germany-wide VR Meetup in ENGAGE on Tuesday, April 28th, 20:00 CET (11:00 a.m. PST). The event is called Virtual Germany, and it is described as:
In cooperation with the VR communities from Berlin, Bremen, Cologne, Erfurt, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Leipzig and Munich, we are planning the first virtual VR and AR Meetup in Germany.
Look forward to exciting lectures on the topic of social VR and various guests from all over Germany and around the world.
One of the many people involved with Virtual Germany is the illustrious XaosPrincess, who is well-known for her work in High Fidelity, and whom I have written about before here, here, and here. She tells me:
“Virtual Germany” is organized as democratic collaboration of many German real-life Meetup groups (most of Germany’s states are represented). Our host in ENGAGE is Rolf Kruse, while the whole organization is a combined effort.
The topic of my 20-minute presentation is “Overview of the Most Important Social VR Platforms”. The talk will be in English. (I do speak German, but I do not consider myself fluent in the language.)
This will be a semi-public, RSVP event in ENGAGE, which will be advertised in each separate German VR Meetup group. Xaos tells me:
The attendees will be asked to register with the ENGAGE event to be admitted (and to give us an overview on the numbers we can expect – probably/hopefully 100+ visitors minimum). We’re still preparing the final ENGAGE event link and will post it as soon as possible 🙂
We’re going to have four rooms: – One main room with live talks and presentations (Moon) – Two backup rooms for additional visitors with live YouTube-Streams of the talks in the main room (Mars & Earth) – One chill and networking room without any streams (a high rise apartment)
The talks will also be streamed live on YouTube.
If you do not have the ENGAGE software yet, you can download and install it for free here. ENGAGE works on desktop or laptop computers running Windows 10 and a wide variety of VR headsets (here’s a list of supported devices). When there is an event listing on the ENGAGE events calendar, I will update this blogpost with a link to that.
See you on April 28th! I am quite looking forward to this.
Kent attended a presentation today by Tim Sweeney, the founder and CEO of Epic Games, the maker of the phenomenally successful battle royale game Fortnite. Launched in 2017, Fortnite now has 250 million registered users worldwide, and made US$2.4 billion dollars in revenue in the last year. (Yes, that’s Billion, with a “B”.)
The future of [a] shared entertainment medium is to have meaningful experiences that people interact with and become a part of the larger world with open world compatibility and open interfaces. The Marshmello concert in Fortnite is one indicator of where it’s going. The metaverse is going to evolve from individual creators creating experiences that interoperate with other experiences.
Need virtual worlds to scale beyond a 200 players on a shard. Need 1 shared world w EVERYONE. Needs a programming environment to scale to unlimited sized. Not single thread C++. Large-scale concurrency w safe transactions that are consistent, durable, isolated.
A viable Metaverse is going to need a successful economy so that creators can make a living, which is absolutely essential. We need a rich set of different economic models. The app store with microtransactions is merely one model. Ad models are dysfunctional.
I’m super impressed with Tim Sweeney’s vision of the open metaverse. It’s a breath of fresh air relative to other major players who are trying to own virtual worlds through walled gardens and app store ecosystems. A viable metaverse needs to be open and interoperable.
Who really needs this? Who actually wants this? I’ve yet to see a succinct, compelling answer to either question beyond the implicit one: Because it’ll be really cool. I’m certainly in that camp, but then again, I’m a gamer/science fiction fan. So yes, I’ve loved the idea of a unified 3D Internet where gaming is significant and meaningful for decades. But I’ve become convinced that metaverse advocates are mistaking their personal preference for a market need — a desire to institutionalize gaming culture as the fundamental, universal culture of the Internet.
The metaverse was first conceived in science fiction before the modern explosion of 3D gaming and immersive and interactive environments. It was an active feedback loop between game dev architects, but the metaverse today is going to be more of a blend of Fortnite and the open web.
So, what do I think about all this? I must confess that, like Wagner, I am rather skeptical that Fortnite, as it is right now, would form a useful model for the future metaverse. Games are designed to be focused more on linear play-through and set objectives, while virtual worlds are meant to be more open-ended and less goal-oriented in nature (although you can certainly have games within virtual worlds). As well, you can have thriving social communities in MMOs like World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online, so there is a somewhat fuzzy boundary between games and virtual worlds.
I do agree with Tim Sweeney that open standards are critical to create a functioning metaverse, and I also agree with Kent Bye that walled gardens and app store ecosystems are going to hinder, rather than help, usher in a metaverse for everybody.
ENDGAME is a long-running talkshow set on the social VR platform of VRChat:
Don’t panic! The end is always nigh for the old world. Endgame is a talk show / group discussion that takes place in the Metaverse (the social layer of virtual reality). Its focus is on technology and the future. Change is inevitable for all species; will we eventually destroy ourselves, or are we destined to transcend what we currently are? Get involved in the conversation by joining us every other Wednesday at 7pm PST / 10pm EST in VRChat. Or you can watch our livestream and previous recordings here at our Youtube channel. Come share your thoughts about the future of the world we share together.
One of the three regular hosts of ENDGAME is Noah Robinson (a.k.a. Psych; Twitter; LinkedIn), a clinical psychology doctoral student at Vanderbilt University and the founder and CEO of Very Real Help, a compnay devoted to building a new Internet-based clinical research platform “that can both treat and inform our understanding of psychopathology”.
In a recent episode of ENDGAME, Noah gave an hour-long presentation of his academic research on how social VR could be used in the treatment of people with substance abuse disorders. Here’s a two-minute YouTube video overview of his research:
Noah’s research interest focuses on exploring how VR social networks can be used as telehealth interventions to treat mental health disorders. He stresses that VR will not replace, but rather supplement, in-person therapy, and that there are still not nearly enough counselors to provide services to the millions of people suffering from addictions in the United States and around the world. Especially after getting out of rehab, patients experience a lot of distress and anhedonia, which tends to lead to relapse. Noah suggests that VR may be particularly effective to prevent relapse in patients with substance abuse disorders.
Here is Noah Robinson’s presentation in full:
Although there is already plenty of anecdotal evidence that virtual reality has a positive impact on mental health disorders (including my own personal experience), there is still a strong need to collect and analyze data in well-designed academic research projects. Noah’s research is fascinating and exciting to me, and I look forward to any papers that are published as a result of his pioneering work.