MUST WATCH VIDEO: Jesse Damiani Talks with Voices of VR Podcast Host Kent Bye on Tech Tock

Jesse Damiani (LinkedIn, Twitter, Wikipedia) hosts a regular talk show called Tech Tock on the Microsoft-owned social VR platform AltspaceVR, and his guest yesterday was Kent Bye, the host of the Voices of VR podcast. (I have blogged before about Kent Bye here and here.)

I’m really sorry I missed this event (I’ve been busy conducting library training sessions for various classes at work all this week at the university, and I just came home last night exhausted, so I gave this a pass). But thankfully, someone has posted a YouTube recording of Kent’s entire presentation and his conversation with Jesse afterwards.

Kent Bye is an extremely information-dense speaker who hops from topic to topic with alarming ease, so you might want to set aside some time and watch this video is small bites, so you don’t get complete information overload! His twenty-minute overview presentation about virtual reality is an absolute must-watch, and the conversation afterward with Jesse Damiani is also very informative, engaging, and wide-ranging. The last half of this YouTube video is a question-and-answer session with members of the studio audience.

So set aside an hour and 40 minutes, and watch the whole thing. It’s amazing. I think that Kent Bye is one of the most informed and articulate speakers about virtual reality that I have ever encountered! Bravo, Kent. And thank you for bringing him onto the show as a guest, Jesse.

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A Reminder to Complete the HEMOSY/Project Polis Survey

Not too long ago, I wrote about an interesting social VR project which is still in the very earliest design stages, called HEMOSY (a headset) and Project Polis (a platform).

As part of that blogpost, I shared a survey link and asked my readers to fill it out, as part of the project’s market research.

I have heard back that, so far, only five people have responded to the survey, so I am reposting the link here, and I ask that you please fill it out. It will only take five minutes of your time!

Here is a link to the survey. Thank you!

Interaction Designer Alan Chao Writes About Lessons Learned Building Successful Worlds in AltspaceVR

Alan Chao (website, Twitter) describes himself as:

I’m an interaction designer in NYC, currently a Senior UX (User eXperience) Designer at Storefront. I have over 6 years of experience in UX and product. I’m also doing work in virtual reality.

Alan has written a post on Medium—the first of a planned series—where he talks about the lessons he has learned from building successful, popular worlds on the social VR platform AltspaceVR. His first post, whimsically titled Don’t Get Stuck in the Hot Tub, is absolutely required reading for anybody who is at all interested in social VR.

I’m just going to quote a few choice bits here because I want you to go over there and read the whole thing. I’m serious; it’s that good. And it’s not that long. Go. Read.

*sigh* Are you still here? O.K., fine, here’s my quote…

People in VR love their Starbucks. This was one of the first lessons I learned with my first attempt at building worlds in Altspace. It was mostly a naive experiment to bring 3D models into VR, which I had never done before. However, the first two worlds I made taught me a lot. The first was a Starbucks.

Something is amusing about bringing a mundane place like a Starbucks into VR. The building was a boxy structure modeled in Sketchup with wood textured walls and white signage. Inside, I included the glass pastry display, refrigerator case, cash registers, several coffee-related props, the drink pickup area, and the little bins with sugar packets and straws. To my surprise, when I teleported a group of users into the world, some immediately assumed positions behind the cash registers, and a line of customers formed and started ordering drinks. There were even roleplayed arguments about the drink orders being too complicated. For whatever reason, everyone in the space bought into this “game” and maintained character. As the creator of the world, I was even named the General Manager of the store.

Alan Chao’s Starbucks Coffee in AltspaceVR

Here is a short summary of the lessons Alan learned while building this and many other worlds in AltspaceVR:

  • Spaces shape behaviour: nowhere is this better illustrated by the visitors to the Starbucks Coffee, who automatically began roleplaying!
  • Start with a feeling: “To achieve immersion, start with the feelings you want a world to convey.” This does not necessarily mean increased photorealism:

I’ve found that in Social VR specifically, photorealism doesn’t mean it feels more realistic. Too real, and it sort of falls into the uncanny valley, primarily in stark contrast to the style of avatars. High poly counts can also be detrimental to performance on mobile headsets. The key is to find the balance between just enough geometry, materials, and lighting consideration to support a real feeling.

I am quite looking forward to reading the rest of this series!

Helios: A Brief Introduction

I just heard about a brand new social VR project, a small indie project called Helios, and since this is a blog about social VR, I thought I’d let you all know about it.

Actually, there’s not much to see yet over at the Helios social VR project. No website yet, basically just a Twitter feed and a brand-new Discord server (here’s the invite).

According to the FAQ on their Discord:

What is Helios?
Helios is a Social VR game made with Unreal Engine 4 by SubLight Games.

Why are you using Unreal Engine?
Unreal Engine will allow Helios to offer a more immersive, interactive, and creator friendly offering than anything currently on the market today.

Will I be able to make my own avatar and use it in game?
Yes! Helios is being designed from the ground up to be as creator friendly as possible. Functionality has already been added to allow you to do this.

What stage of development is the game currently in?
Helios is currently in a closed Alpha stage. The bare bones are there and new features are being added often.

If you are interested in joining the closed alpha of Helios, you can send a request for a Steam activation code to user Rareden (the lead developer) on their Discord server. Apparently, the developers hold organized community tests once a week on Fridays at 11:00 p.m. EST.

Helios is also unique in that almost all of the other social VR platforms on the market either have a custom game engine (e.g. Sansar) or use Unity (e.g. VRChat). Helios will be based on the Unreal game engine.

Here’s a 46-second video pulled from their Twitter feed, showing off one of the imported avatars. Here’s a still from that video:

It’s quite a complicated-looking avatar, with feathers and all, which is quite intriguing! And (of course) I have added Helios to my ever-growing list of social VR/virtual worlds.