Immersive Learning Research Network Conference in VirBELA and AltspaceVR, June 21-25, 2020

iLRN 2020, the 6th International Conference of the Immersive Learning Research Network, is running in VirBELA and AltspaceVR from June 21st to 25th, 2020, one of many real-life conferences that have moved to social VR and virtual worlds because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s conference theme is Vision 20/20: Hindsight, Insight, and Foresight in XR and Immersive Learning:

Conference attendees must download and install a white-label version of VirBELA to attend most of the conference presentations and events. Here’s a look at the spawn point next to the information booth:

VirBELA is a virtual world I have written about before on this blog, which is very similar to Second Life (Here is a link to all my blogposts tagged VirBELA, including this one).

A view of the iLRN main stage in VirBELA

However, VirBELA is intended for corporate and conference use, as opposed to the more open-ended uses of SL, so it’s a good fit for the iLRN conference. (It looks as though AltspaceVR is primarily being used for social events associated with the conference through the Educators in VR group, according to the AltspaceVR Events calendar.)

The iLRN 2020 Expo Hall in VirBELA

If you’re interested, you can register for free for this conference via EventBrite (I got in free through an early-bird ticket special I wrote about here). I plan on attending a few presentations in between working from home for my university library system.

See you there!

Advertisements

UPDATED! A New Book and a New Website Attempt to Cover the Rapidly-Expanding VR/AR/XR Collaborative Marketplace

May I invite you to join the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the world’s first cross-worlds discussion forum? Over 400 people from around the world, representing many different social VR platforms and virtual worlds, meet daily to chat, discuss, debate, and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse, and the companies building it. We’d love to have you join us!


(Yes, I know, I KNOW, I am officially on vacation from the blog…but I had another pernicious bout of insomnia, and I’ve been up since 2:00 a.m., sooo…)


I wanted to alert my readers to two new resources I have only just discovered in the past couple of days. Both are different approaches to attempt to organize information about what I like to collectively call YARTVRA: an acronym which I am still, dearly hoping against hope, will eventually catch on in this nascent industry, which stands for Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual Reality App. (You can see all my blogposts tagged YARTVRA, including this one, here.)

A Rallying Cry: YARTVRA!

First, Charlie Fink, who writes about virtual and augmented reality for Forbes, is publishing an electronic book called Remote Collaboration & Virtual Conferences: The Future of Work. It’s not out yet, but it will be released on June 16th, 2020 (you can pre-order it on Amazon). According to the description of the book on Amazon:

Join Professor Charlie Fink and his Chapman University VRAR340 “XR Landscape” students who, in the Spring of 2020, explored the ascendancy of the video call during the Coronavirus crisis. Ultimately, they reviewed 120 companies, exploring options for conferences, training, education, and remote team collaboration. They made a profile for each platform, creating a comprehensive directory for these online applications. The resulting book, Remote Collaboration, Virtual Conferences, The Future of Work, shows how new tools, including VR and AR, can solve the problem of being together when we have to stay apart.

Now, the problem with a book (even an electronic book) is that it only provides a snapshot of a rapidly-moving and evolving industry, and as such, it will very quickly become out of date.

A website is much easier to keep up-to-date, which is the idea behind a brand new website which I first learned about from the Educators in VR Facebook group, called XR Collaboration: A Global Resource Guide.

Image from the XR Collaboration Website

According to the website’s About page:

The Global Resource Guide to XR Collaboration is an interactive and comprehensive online tool that helps companies utilize XR collaboration and remote work tools for businesses.  The resource guide will serve as a central repository of detailed information about XR collaboration products and platforms and include an easy-to-use interactive tool for matching to specific business needs, a feature that will be available by the end of this month. All of this will be free to use and free to share.

A key feature of the XR Collaboration website is an interactive directory, where you can filter a listing of 64 YARTVRA platforms by:

  • the number of collaborators the platform supports (2 to 50+);
  • the VR/AR hardware brand names the platform supports;
  • the type of collaboration the platform supports (this is similar to my Venn diagram, Social VR Platforms Organized by Primary Purpose);
  • the operating systems the platform supports (e.g. Android, iOS, PC/Windows, Steam, WebXR, etc.);
  • the platform’s features (e.g. desktop sharing, avatars, etc.);
  • the industries the platform is intended to serve (which I think would overlap a bit with the type of collaboration, above).

Now, I must caution you that this is very much still a directory under construction! Clicking on any of the logos takes you to an undefined URL, at least so far. (UPDATE June 19th: Apparently, I was mistaken. This does work; I was just confused by the URLs that appeared at the bottom of my Chrome browser when I hovered over the links in this directory.)

Also, just a quick, cursory spot check of some of the websites for some of these XR collaboration companies pulls up a few errors (for example, Project Chimera by Pagoni VR is listed here as serving the arts and entertainment industry, when it really should be categorized under education). But it is still early days, and I assume these sorts of errors will be corrected as the directory is fleshed out. (By the way, there is a form for companies to fill out to request consideration for entry into this directory. I do see a number of platforms missing. And, if you’re going to include arts and entertainment platforms in this directory, you may as well throw Sansar on there…but I suspect that they want to focus more on the corporate market.)

Hmmm, I wonder if the team of VR/AR/AR experts behind this intriguing project needs a social-VR-obsessed librarian to help keep things organized? This would be a dream job for me, even if it were volunteer! I mean, this is essentially what I have already been doing informally on this blog for the past 2-3/4 years, even though my comprehensive list of social VR platforms and virtual worlds needs a serious reorganization and recategorization as it has grown to over 150 entries (hence my “Herding Cats” series of blogposts).

There’s also an introductory PDF guide to XR collaboration tools available if you provide your name, email address, and primary industry (all the better to create a mailing list, my dear! as the Big Bad Wolf used to say to Little Red Riding Hood).

Anyway, I think this website has the potential to be a very valuable resource, and I wanted to let people know about it (even if I am officially on a vacation from the blog!). If you want to follow the XR Collaboration project on social media, here are the links: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


O.K. now I am going to go back to bed and try to get some much-needed sleep…

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

You Can Take Part in a Research Survey on Your Use of Social VR During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Dr. Miguel Barreda-Ángeles, a Communication Science researcher the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, is conducting a survey on the use of social VR platforms during the coronavirus pandemic. He says:

The aim of this study is to understand how people are using Virtual Reality social networks (for instance, VRChat, AltSpaceVR, etc.) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The knowledge generated can be useful for understanding the role of new communication technologies in health crises. 

The survey is completely anonymous; we do not collect information that could be used to identify you. It takes about seven minutes to complete it. 

If you are interested in participating in this survey, here is the link to get started.

Editorial: The Wall Street Journal Looks at Breakroom and Other Virtual Office Spaces as an Emerging Business Trend

Yesterday, in an article titled Miss Your Office? Some Companies Are Building Virtual Replicas, the American financial newspaper The Wall Street Journal took a look at a current trend: businesses setting up virtual office spaces for their employees who are working remotely because of the pandemic:

Stay-home orders and the shuttering of workplaces have given corporate employees some respite from getting dragged into time-wasting water-cooler conversations.

But some companies and their employees don’t want to leave everything about the office behind, it turns out, and are replicating their offices in “SimCity”-like simulations online.

And, among the companies that WSJ reporter Katie Deighton spoke to was Sine Wave Entertainment, the makers of Sinespace and Breakroom:

Sine Wave Entertainment Ltd. last month introduced Breakroom, a virtual-world product for remote workforces. It can accommodate all-hands meetings, secure one-on-ones and document sharing. Clients of the product include Virgin Group Ltd. and Torque Esports Corp.

Many customers initially assume they will recreate their offices, then realize they can make tweaks that would be impossible in the real world, said Sine Wave CEO Rohan Freeman.

“We spend our lives wishing we were working in open, sunny campuses with butterflies outside,” Mr. Freeman said. “Here you can realize that dream.”

Although clients can use Breakroom to create their office utopia, the platform also enables real-world elements such additional privileges for senior staff. In Sine Wave’s own virtual world, senior members can lock the boardroom, which is located on top of a hill overlooking the rest of the office.

A meeting in Breakroom (source: WSJ)

The Wall Street Journal article is a signal that corporate America—and indeed, businesses in countries around the world—are increasingly interested in virtual worlds. As the saying goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats“. I predict that Breakroom and a host of competing YARTVRA* firms are going to see a continuing boom in interest and inquires as the coronavirus pandemic drags on.

*YARTVRA is an acronym I coined that stands for Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual Reality App, which I am still hoping will catch on!


This blogpost is sponsored by Sinespace, and was written in my role as an embedded reporter for this virtual world (more details here).