UPDATED! Adventures in VR: Oculus Home, Somnium Space, Sinespace

This morning I decided to spend a little time in my Oculus Rift visiting three social VR platforms that I have not spent a lot of time in recently: Oculus Home, Somnium Space, and Sinespace.

Oculus Home

I was genuinely curious about Oculus Home after David Hall posted his video to YouTube, so I made sure to spend some time exploring it and learning about its new features. Basically, you can design your own home (even import your own content now), create multiple homes, and visit other people’s homes. You can set any of your homes to private, friends only, or public.

The software is still a little bit buggy. Multiple times I tried to favourite other people’s homes which I liked and wanted to be able revisit later, but it would not save my choices. Moving around is a bit cumbersome at first, but you can change the default teleport to walk and the default snap turning to smooth turning, so once I was able to fiddle with the settings a bit I felt a little more comfortable. I also encountered a few sticking points in the tutorials, which also could use a bit of tweaking.

Another problem is finding places to explore. There is a Recommended list of homes under Places in the pop-up menu, but it’s rather short (perhaps not many people have set their homes to public yet). Oculus Home is not really set up yet to allow you to easily browse other people’s experiences as you already can in Sansar with the Sansar Atlas, which is sortable in various ways (most popular, recently created, etc.).

And, in what I call “the VRChat/Rec Room problem”, there appear to be a lot of children and immature adults on the platform. Yes, there is asshattery, tomfoolery, and trolling already! It’s hardly surprising, really. After all, anyone who owns an Oculus Rift VR headset has access to Oculus Home.

However, I cannot deny that the experiences I visited were beautifully rendered, especially at the highest graphics settings in the options. I am eager to see where Facebook/Oculus takes this.

Somnium Space

I always have the same problem whenecer I try to start Somnium Space: I can’t remember the automatically-generated password! So I had to go through the whole rigamarole of resetting my password. This time I made sure to check the “remember password” option!

Unlike most other social VR platforms, Somnium Space appears to be one large landmass (mostly empty at this point). There’s a few places to explore, like a seaside town, a working bowling alley, and a shopping mall, but not a lot else yet.

There’s a very handy snapshot feature in Somnium Space which I used to take some in-world photos, but unfortunately, it doesn’t tell you what directory it is saving them to on your hard drive! After hunting around fruitlessly for fifteen minutes, I simply gave up.

There are also teleporters which tell you that can actually use them to teleport from Somnium Space to High Fidelity, JanusVR, and AltspaceVR, but they don’t work. Or at least, I couldn’t figure out how to work them. I gave up on that too.

Somnium Space really could use someone to provide better user documentation of features like the camera and the teleporters. Other than that, they’re off to a promising start, having raised over US$60,000 in their recent IndieGogo crowdfunding campaign.

Also, I decided today to set up a new category on my blog just for Somnium Space.

Sinespace

When I first tried Sinespace in VR last May, it was seriously buggy. I am sorry to report that the situation has not improved any. To enable VR mode in Sinespace, you have to download a special beta OpenVR client, install it, open it, make sure you enable OpenVR in the user settings and then restart the client software. (A bit fussy, in my opinion, compared to the seamless switching between desktop mode and VR mode in competing platforms like Sansar and High Fidelity.)

I found the level of jitteriness to be so severe that I had to take off my VR headset after only a couple of minutes before I got sick. In addition to that, whenever I teleported anywhere, I landed up facing the opposite direction from where I started. The user interface menus are positioned too close to your eyes. At one point, I was looking at the backside of the Explore menu! I could go on, but you get the idea: this is simply not ready for prime time yet. I was actually very disappointed.

UPDATE 9:03 p.m.: Well, I asked on the official Somnium Space Discord server, and someone told me where to find the snaphots I had taken (they were saved to the C:/Users/[username]/Documents/Somnium Space/Tablet Camera folder):

My avatar in Somnium Space
The teleporter I couldn’t get to work 🙁
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Results of the Second RyanSchultz.com Reader Poll: What Social VR/Virtual World Do You Spend the Most Time In?

Image created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

The reader poll I posted one week ago has now closed, and I can now share the results with you.

But before I do that, I want to show you my blog viewer statistics. Notice the HUGE spike in viewers for three consecutive days? Almost all of that traffic was to the original blogpost! I’ve never seen anything like it.

At first, I was excited. And then, I got suspicious. While that particular blogpost eventually got 5,456 views (making it my most-viewed blogpost of all time!), the actual number of votes in my poll did not see a corresponding spike (only 220 votes in total were cast).

I had deliberately designed my poll so that repeat voters were blocked by website cookie and IP address, so obviously, either I was getting a lot of repeat voters, or a lot of visitors were not submitting their vote. And that huge spike in traffic was from locations all over the world, but there were many viewers from a lot of countries that to date had not been frequent visitors before: Turkey, Brazil, Russia, Romania, Colombia. I suspect that my poll was hit by a swarm of bots.

It would appear that SOMEONE was trying to sway (or spoil) my poll. The surge in traffic to that particular blogpost ended almost as abruptly as it had begun. The question is: why would anyone bother?

Anyway, time to announce the results of my poll. A total of 220 votes were received:

POLL RESULTS: What Social VR/Virtual World Do You Spend the Most Time In?

  1. Sansar (43 votes)
  2. Second Life (38)
  3. OpenSim/Halcyon grids (23)
  4. Somnium Space (16)
  5. VRChat (15)
  6. High Fidelity (14)
  7. NeosVR (10)
  8. Occupy White Walls (8)
  9. Cryptovoxels (7)
  10. Sinespace (7)
  11. Engage (6)
  12. AltspaceVR (5)
  13. TheWaveVR (4)
  14. Anyland (2)
  15. Mozilla Hubs (2)
  16. Oculus Rooms (2)
  17. vTime XR (2)

The following platforms all got one vote each:

  • Active Worlds
  • Bigscreen
  • Hyperfair VR
  • JanusVR
  • 3DX Chat

And there were two unique write-in ballots*:

  • Anarchy Arcade: “It’s social not like chat, but by exploring people’s collections.”
  • Pix-Life (I have absolutely no idea what this is, and Google was no help. Does anybody know what this is?)

*Note to OpenSim/Halcyon fans: YOU DO NOT READ INSTRUCTIONS!!!! I simply added all your OpenSim write-ins to the OpenSim total above. Next time, PLEASE PAY ATTENTION. Your particular OpenSim/Halcyon grid is not a special, unique snowflake. Thank you.

Now, I am not going to read too much into these poll results. If anything, they are more a picture of my current blog readership (which tends to skew heavily towards Sansar and Second Life users). And I’m not going to kid myself: I’m sure a few platforms urged their users to vote in this poll. This is far from a scientific survey. I was a little surprised that Second Life did not get first place in my poll, though.

So, what do you think of the poll results? Please feel free to leave a comment below, thank you!

Happy New Year! Where to Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Social VR

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Designed by Kjpargeter from Freepik.com

I will be celebrating New Year’s Eve offline, with real-life friends here in Winnipeg. It looks like we’re going to have a cold night! 😉

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Meanwhile, in Winnipeg…

If you are looking to spend New Year’s Eve online, here are a few options on the various social VR platforms:

Sansar

Eliot (Linden Lab’s Community Manager for Sansar) will be hosting three New Year’s Eve events in Sansar in different timezones:

High Fidelity

High Fidelity will be hosting a round-the-clock event at The Spot from Monday, Dec. 31st 2:00 a.m. to Tuesday, Jan. 1st 4:00 a.m. (Pacific Time).

Sinespace

As part of its Winter Festival, Sinespace is hosting a New Year’s Eve party. Check the login page of your Sinespace client for more details.

VRChat

The best place to find out what New Year’s Eve parties are happening where in VRChat is, as always, the VRChat Events Discord server. Apparently, there’s a round-the-clock party happening at Void, according to AgentM83:

They’re partying in every time zone all day long (started this morning).


However you choose to ring in the new year—online or offline, alone or with friends, awake or asleep!—may 2019 bring you happiness, peace, and prosperity.

 

UPDATED: Which Social VR Platforms and Virtual Worlds Will Benefit from the Upcoming Standalone VR Headset Oculus Quest?

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As many of you already know, Oculus is releasing a new, standalone VR headset, the Oculus Quest, sometime this coming spring, 2019. Priced at just US$399, it is sure to be a popular option for people who are interested in VR, but who don’t want to purchase a more expensive VR headset solution like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

The Oculus Rift is meant to fill the space in the Oculus product line-up between their entry-level, lower-powered standalone VR headset, the Oculus Go, and the Oculus Rift, a VR headset with Touch controllers which requires a high-end Windows gaming-level PC with a good graphics card to run. (Unfortunately, there is, as yet, no satisfactory native virtual reality hardware solution for Apple Mac users, although there are native Mac desktop clients for virtual worlds such as High Fidelity and Sinespace.)

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If the Oculus Quest becomes very popular, those social VR platforms which can run on the Quest hardware may gain an advantage over those which require a full-blown VR headset and a higher-end computer.

I think it’s safe to assume that Facebook/Oculus properties such as Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms (or at least some version of them) will be available for the Oculus Quest on its launch date. Social VR platforms with simpler avatars and spaces, which already run on the Oculus Go (like AltspaceVR, Bigscreen, and vTime) will probably also be available for the Quest.

Surprisingly, Rec Room, TheWaveVR, and VRChat are not among the social VR programs that are currently available for the Oculus Go ( I searched for them on the Oculus Go apps store and could not find any mention of them.) It remains to be seen if the companies behind those three products will release versions which will run on the more powerful Oculus Quest.

In a discussion thread over on the official High Fidelity user forums, HiFi CEO Philip Rosedale stated back in October:

We are definitely going to get High Fidelity running on as many standalone devices as we can, and we love the Quest. VR will not find a large audience until the Quest and other devices (like the Mirage and Vive Focus) become widely available.

Talking to Oculus about the process now… stay tuned.

When asked for to provide a more recent update, Philip added:

Yes, we are working on the Quest, and hope to have High Fidelity ready to run on it for launch! Very high quality device.

I also don’t know what Sinespace’s exact plans are for the Oculus Quest, but Adan Frisby, their lead developer, said on a Facebook comment when I cross-posted this blogpost over there:

We’ll be fine with it too – anyone doing Android support will have an easier time of it.

So it looks like High Fidelity and Sinespace will indeed both be working with the Oculus Quest, if not right at launch date, then shortly thereafter. This gives them both an advantage over Linden Lab’s Sansar, which very likely will not be able to work with the Quest. There’s still a lot of data that has to get sent to and from a VR headset to properly render Sansar experiences (especially for any experience which has global illumination enabled), which would probably completely overload any standalone headset.

As I often say: interesting times ahead! Let’s hope that the Oculus Quest makes a big splash and brings even more people into VR. A rising tide lifts all boats, and many social VR platforms would benefit from greater consumer awareness and uptake of virtual reality in general. And I promise to cover all of it as it happens on this blog!

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

UPDATE Dec. 14th: Adeon Writer posted the following to the VirtualVerse Discord server (VirtualVerse is the successor to the long-running SLUniverse forums):

VRChat was just announced for the Oculus Store. While it already worked with Oculus on Steam, [the] OculusSDK version of VRChat means it will almost certainly be ported to Oculus Quest when it comes out, making it the first metaverse-style game available for wireless/unteathered/portable VR.

Thanks, Adeon!

UPDATE Feb. 11th: Since this blogpost was written, I have had someone tell me the following about VRChat:

Sadly, I don’t think VRChat’s gonna support Quest. It’s just not compatible with mobile CPUs. Hell, it brings modern up-to-date PC’s to a standstill with too many people. I very much doubt the Snapdragon 835 can handle all the custom shaders, avatars, IK, etc. The team would basically need to do a full rewrite. And that’s unlikely unless the team was way bigger.

It does sound as though VRChat would have to be pared down significantly in order to run on the Oculus Quest, if at all.

I also noticed that I have received a lot of traffic to this blogpost due to this post on the OculusQuest subReddit (which I had never heard of before today). If anybody over there has any inside information on social VR/virtual worlds that will launch with the Quest, I’d certainly love to hear about it! Thanks.