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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HEMOSY and Project Polis: A Brief Introduction—And a Reader Survey!

One of the things that I would not have predicted when I first embarked on this two-and-a-half-year blogging odyssey is that, instead of me having to go out and hunt for stories, the stories would start to come to me.

And so it happened that I got the following message via the Contact page of my blog, from a young Swiss man named Emmanuele Leggio:

My name is Emmanuele Leggio and I am the head of a startup project called Polis, the city with infinite space and zero distance. We aim to build a Virtual Co-working / event space. Yes another YARTVRA*, But I do have a peculiarity and that is the VR helmet I patented the Hemosy. This helmet captures the face of the user and projects it in a virtual reality environment. We can do the same [as] the other co-working [apps], but we make sure you can see the real face and emotion of the people around you.

The reason I contact you is because I would like to ask you if is possible to run a questionnaire or pool from your readers. I wish to test my theory that seeing the real person in front of them is worth buying a VR headset.

*Yes! I finally got someone else on the planet to actually use the acronym I had coined, YARTVRA!

So, I took a look at his website, which outlines a proposed project involving two components:

  • HEMOSY (HEas MOunted SYstem) is a VR headset which uses cameras to record and transmit the actual facial expressions of the user; and
  • Polis, a social VR platform where HEMOSY-recorded video is projected. Among the possible uses Emmauele suggests is a campus for online university courses.

And this ambitious, even audacious, plan is more than just an idea; Emmanuele has already filed for—and received—a patent for his helmet (text is in Italian).

So, suitably impressed by this young man and his bold plans, I agreed to help him by asking you, my blog readers, to fill out an online survey that he has created. (Think of it as market research. I am also quite curious to see what the results of his survey will be, and I will share them with you when it is complete.)

Emmanuele says:

Hello My name is Emmanuele and I’m the founder of Polis, a start up (www.startuppolis.com)  that wishes to bring face-to-face meetings to VR. We are in the early stages, and we would like to test same assumptions we have.  Here is a quick questionnaire:  

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BMMV5PF 

In case you have questions for us, or you wish to communicate with us, please use this link: https://startuppolis.com/contatti/

We thank you deeply for all your feedback. 

So please take a moment to complete Emmanuele’s 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!

Immersivt Issues an Updated English List of Social VR/AR Products for Virtual Meetings

Niclas Johansson of the Swedish company Immersivt (whom I have written about before) has just published an updated, English version of his report titled The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Meetings with VR/AR.

Niclas and I have one thing in common: we both are absolutely ruthless in hunting down social VR and AR products for our respective lists! In his updated list, I notice he mentions the following products, which I have not heard of before:

  • SculptrVR
  • Masterpiece
  • ARCall
  • IrisVR Prospect
  • Agority/Spinview
  • Flowtropolis
  • Alloverse

So, this means I get to do some more exploring and reporting! Watch for new blogposts about these products over the next little while. The marketplace for social VR/AR/MR/XR is indeed getting crowded!


Thanks to Vytek for the heads-up!