UPDATED! Today at the UniVirtual Experience Conference in AltspaceVR: A Panel Discussion on the Current State of Social VR

The UniVirtual Experience virtual conference, put on by the Educators in VR group and the Virtual World Society, has been running all through the month of May, 2021.

This afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time/4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, in AltspaceVR, I will moderate a candid panel discussion on the current state of social VR, where members of the Discord server associated with the RyanSchultz.com blog will discuss, debate, and perhaps even argue about the current and future state of social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse, and the many companies building it!

HOST: Ryan Schultz

PANELISTS:
– Carlos Austin
– Anabel Nowak
– Rainwolf
– Christina “XaosPrincess” Kinne
– Jason Moore
– Chris Bradley
– Erik Mondrian

All are welcome! Hope to see you there. Here’s the event listing from the AltspaceVR Events Calendar.

UPDATE June 23rd, 2021: The hour-long video of this panel discussion has been posted to YouTube by its creator, Carlos Austin (one of the panelists). Enjoy!

Dr. Marie Vans: 14 Reasons Why Virtual Worlds Are Still Better than Social VR Worlds for Educational Purposes

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


Dr, Marie Vans (known as Amvans Lapis in Second Life) is a Senior Research Scientist at HP Labs in Colorado, who gave the following provocatively-titled presentation on March 19th, 2021 at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) 2021 Conference, held in SL:

Title Slide from Dr. Vans’ VWBPE Presentaion

14 Reasons Why Virtual Worlds are still better than Social VR Worlds

A year ago, VCARA started the VR Exploder’s Club wherein educators meet up once a month to determine whether and/or which Social VR Worlds we should establish a presence thereon after exploring different platforms together. Whether we used VR headsets or desktop versions of these platforms, we looked at criteria such as learning curve, real-time communication, interaction capabilities, and more. I will describe specific issues that have been resolved in VWs that still need attention in VR.

Drawing upon a number of representative social VR platforms chosen from my November 2019 spreadsheet (which I need to update!), she gave a great presentation on why she thinks that social VR platforms need to pull up their socks when it comes to supporting education, and why these newer platforms should not be so quick to dismiss older virtual world platforms such as Second Life!

Because the following YouTube video of Dr. Marie Vans’ presentation has a absolutely criminally low 56 views thus far, I have decided to write up a blogpost about it! And here it is! (I am going back on hiatus again after this.)

Here is the video of Dr. Vans’ hour-long VWBPE presentation, followed by a question and answer session with the audience. It’s well worth watching the entire thing!

iLRN Is Hosting the 19th IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR 2020) in VirBELA, November 9th to 13th, 2020

The IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR) is the premier conference for Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR). ISMAR explores the advances in commercial and research activities related to AR and MR and Virtual Reality (VR) by continuing the expansion of its scope over the past several years. The symposium is organized and supported by the IEEE Computer Society, IEEE VGTC and ACM SIGGRAPH.

Here are the virtual conference details from an email I received:


The Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN) is proud to be hosting the 19th IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR 2020) on our iLRN Virtual Campus, powered by VirBELA, and to be supporting the conference as a Gold Sponsor. ISMAR is the premier technical and scientific research conference on AR and MR technologies. There is still time to register for this exciting conference!

Come along to learn from and interact with researchers from all over the world, who will be sharing the latest advances in the field. In addition, through an immersive experience, you will have the opportunity to enjoy Brazilian cultural attractions in a unique and unforgettable way!

Note: The iLRN Virtual Campus is accessible either (a) in desktop mode on a PC or Mac; or (b) using a tethered PC VR headset (HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest with Link Cable). Sessions will also be streamed on YouTube Live.

Here’s a link to the official conference website with all the details.

The cost to attend this virtual conference is only US$50 for IEEE members, and US$60 for non-members. Here is registration information for the conference.

A Report from the First Day of the BlockDown 2020 Conference

As I wrote about earlier (here), the BlockDown 2020 blockchain/cryptocurrency virtual conference is taking place April 16th and 17th, 2020 on a special-purpose, white-label platform operated by Sinespace.

I got an email yesterday evening inviting me to download a special version of the BlockDown client software, visit the BlockDown Lobby area, and customize my avatar. (Note that this is a separate client from the regular Sinespace client, and you must have purchased a ticket to the conference to be able to attend.)

So I decided to pay a visit before the conference started at 9:00 a.m. CET (2:00 a.m. my local time here in Winnipeg). The BlockDown Lobby area is futuristic, spacious, and attractive, with plenty of space for avatars to mix and mingle:

However, there is no getting around the fact that there is still an overwhelming amount of information presented for newbies to process and digest, both in the PDF guide attached to that invitation email, and on in-world bulletin boards in the lobby!

There was always going to be a learning curve associated with holding a conference in a virtual world, but I really think this could have been drastically simplified. After all, these are crypto people first and foremost, who might not be all that interested in the finer details of avatar customization, attachment repositioning, and shopping for new duds to stand out from the crowd.

To make things a bit easier for those brand new to virtual worlds, there are eight starter avatar models at the landing point, which you just click on to grab a predetermined avatar look (four male and four female, including a couple of astronaut suits):

Me, I immediately hit the Shop button and spent some of my starter 30,000 “Blocks” currency to make myself look a little different from all the cookie-cutter avatars around me! (I also fattened myself up a bit to match the real-life me. Sinespace is still among the very few virtual worlds where I can actually adjust the body sliders to be overweight! Hey, it’s my reality, I may as well embrace it.)

New eyes, new skin, new hair, new jacket, a little extra avoirdupois…much better!

A couple of Sinespace employees were present to help out the newbies, whom I chatted with for a bit:

So, all set up for the conference, I set my alarm for 1:45 a.m. and went to bed. I landed up getting up once in the middle of the night for about half an hour, then going back to bed, and then finally waking up again this morning at 5:30 a.m. to revisit the conference.

There is a small trade show floor, rather sparsely attended when I visited, with virtual booths (some manned by avatar sales reps):

I was slightly disappointed when I realized that most, if not all, of the featured speakers were not going to be represented by in-world avatars, but by video screens in the conference auditorium:

To be honest, I really came more for the novelty of attending a white-label version of Sinespace, designed specifically for an event. I simply wanted to see what would be the same as regular Sinespace, and what would be different. My interest in blockchain and cryptocurrencies only extends as far as blockchain-based virtual worlds, so most of the presentation topics have not been not that applicable to me.

As I predicted, almost all the other avatars I encountered were one of the eight basic models provided in the lobby, with absolutely zero modifications. Were it not for the name tags over everybody else’s heads, I would have had a great deal of difficulty distinguishing between people!

The BlockDown 2020 conference runs all day today and tomorrow; here is the complete conference agenda. Tickets cost £20.00 and can be bought through their website.