To Teleport or Not to Teleport: Teleporting Versus Walking in the Metaverse

Ever wish you could teleport in real life?
(Photo by Chris Briggs on Unsplash)

Earlier this week, I had a guided tour of the blockchain-based social VR platform Somnium Space, where I was informed by my tour guide that the virtual world had just implemented teleporting. Scattered throughout the one large, contiguous virtual landscape which comprises Somnium Space were teleporter hubs, where you could pull up a map, click on the teleporter hub you wanted to travel to, press a button, et voilà! You were instantly transported to your destination.

A teleporter hub in the central city square of Somnium Space (at night)
The red arrows indicate the location of teleporter hubs on the map

What makes Somnium Space unusual among metaverse platforms is that you cannot simply teleport from one place to another distant location; you either must make use of the provided teleporters, or walk/run/fly/swim to your destination. (Of course, you can certainly “short hop” using a limited form of teleporting, but that is only for shorter distances, not for instantly getting from one end of a large, contiguous landmass to another.)

In other words, the teleporter hubs of the Somnium Transportation System are set up much like a modern urban subway system, where you can only travel to a particular, pre-built subway station that is situated the nearest to your intended destination, and then walk the rest of the way. Many people might remember that in the very earliest days of Second Life, there were also teleporter hubs in the days before avatars could instantly teleport themselves from one location to another!

Another thing that sets Somnium Space apart from other social VR platforms is that there are only going to be so many “public” teleporter hubs. In face, some of these hubs are going to be auctioned off as NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), and the successful bidders with such a teleporter hub on their properties will be able to charge a cryptocurrency fee in order to use their teleporters! (In other words, they would operate much the same as a real-life toll road or highway.)

Closely intertwined with the idea of teleporting vs. walking is the layout of a metaverse platform. Is it one large contiguous landmass, like Somnium Space, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, and (to a certain extent) Second Life? Or is it a collection of smaller worlds, like VRChat, Rec Room, Sansar, and Sinespace? If it is the former, then means of transportation (and ease of access to transportation) becomes more important. If it is the latter, then another tool which many of the newer social VR platforms offer is the ability to create a portal—either temporary or permanent— between two worlds. (Of course, you could consider a teleporter hub a portal.)

So, keeping all this in mind (particularly the distinction between SHORT HOP teleporting and teleporting to a DISTANT location), we can create a chart outlining the transportation affordances of the various metaverse platforms:

Name of Platform (Layout)Walk/Run? *Distance
Teleport?
**
Create Portals?
Second Life (mostly one contiguous landmass, with private islands)YESYESYES
Sinespace (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Sansar (separate worlds)YESNO (but you can create teleport hubs)YES
VRChat (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Rec Room (separate worlds)YESNOYES
AltspaceVR (separate worlds)YESNOYES
NeosVR (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Cryptovoxels (one contiguous landmass with some islands) YESNO (you can add coordinates to a URL, though)YES
Decentraland (one contiguous landmass) YESYES (/goto X,Y)NO
Somnium Space (one contiguous landmass)YESNO (but there are teleport hubs)NO (unless you count teleport hubs)
* – Can a user walk/run/fly/swim from one location to another? This includes SHORT HOP teleporting.
** – Can a user personally choose to teleport from one location to a second, DISTANT location?
† – Can a user create a temporary or permanent portal from one location to another?

Obviously, all metaverse platforms offer some form of personal locomotion for your avatar (walk, run, fly, swim, short-hop teleporting, etc.). This is standard.

It is also clear from this table that the metaverse platforms which consist of many smaller worlds (Sinespace, Sansar, VRChat, Rec Room, AltspaceVR, and NeosVR) all prefer the creation of temporary and permanent portals to allowing users to teleport great distances on their own steam. On the other hand, all the social VR platforms and virtual worlds which consist of one contiguous landmass tend to allow some form of teleportation across great distances.

You will notice that Cryptovoxels uses a rather brute-force method of “teleporting”, which consists of appending the coordinates to the end of the URL you enter into your web browser client (which are much the same as the coordinates which form part of the SLURLs used in Second Life, but not nearly as convenient in my opinion).

Transportation affordances are yet another way to classify metaverse platforms in my continuing effort to create a taxonomy of social VR platforms and virtual worlds.

So, what do you think? Have I made an error in my table? Do you have an opinion about the benefits of teleporting and portals versus walking around and exploring the landscape? I’d love to hear your opinions, so please leave a comment, thank you!

Visiting the Wonderful Worlds of ケセドCHESED in VRChat

On Wednesday evening, I joined the XR Social Club in their weekly explorations of VRChat, and our hosts took us on a tour of three of the wonderful worlds created by a Japanese user known as ケセドCHESED. These are, without exception, beautifully crafted worlds, many featuring fireworks, shooting stars, or even aurora borealis!

The first, called simply CHESED’s Cave, is a cozy bar with a hot tub, and several outlooks over a landscape with fireworks! The particle effects are particularly well done, and everybody in our tour group marveled at the work on display. This is somebody who has some serious skills in world-building! It’s got all the hallmarks of a comfortable gathering spot, even though it is in a cave.

A look at the bar in CHESED’s Cave

The second world was the Sakura Ryokan, a wonderfully detailed Japanese inn with a communal bathing area, as well as a lovely spa carved into the rock behind it, where you can relax in the water, under a night sky filled with stunning fireworks.

The communal baths at CHESED’s Sakura Ryokan

We wrapped up our tour at CHESED’s Sea of Clouds, a cozy home built into the side of a cliff, where you can watch the fireworks amid the gently moving clouds:

Watching the fireworks at CHESED’s Sea of Clouds

Afterwards, entranced by the detail and beauty of these worlds, I went on a solo exploration of several other of ケセドCHESED’s worlds, including CHESED’s Tea Party, where you traverse a long pathway of vines, in order to reach an oversize, food-laden table! Flocks of seagulls fly under a rainbow to complete the serene scene.

CHESED’s Tea Party

Carlos Austin, our videographer, shot the following livestream of our adventures yesterday, which you might be interested in:

To see a list of all ケセドCHESED’s worlds, just visit his/her profile, and click on the plus sign next to Worlds to see all the worlds he/she has created. Also, almost all of these worlds are tagged “chesed”, to make them easier to find.

Enjoy! Many thanks to VR_Christine of the XR Social Club in VRChat for introducing me to these fantastic worlds!

UPDATE 12:36 p.m.: Carlos was kind enough to share a group photo he took at Sakura Ryokan (VR_Christine, who discovered all these worlds, is the big hot dog at the centre).

The XR Social Club meets Wednesday evenings at 6:00 p.m. PST/8:00 p.m. CST/9:00 p.m. EST in a private instance of their club. New members are always welcome! The best way to join is to friend a current member of the club (such as me, my username is ryanschultz) and request an invitation near the start time. See you there!

UPDATED! Drug Culture in Social VR and Virtual Worlds: Some Explorations on 4/20 of Its Expression and Representation in the Metaverse

Photo by GRAS GRÜN on Unsplash

I have a confession to make: I have never smoked marijuana. (And no, I haven’t been tempted since my country, Canada, legalized cannabis three years ago.) When it comes to drugs, I am an utter square, a clueless noob, a babe in the woods. Instead of associating with the druggies in high school, I hung out with the kids you used to hang out in the library (which might explain why I became a librarian, come to think of it).

In fact (aside from my prescription medications (which I take for a list of ailments that only seems to grow longer the older I get), the only recreational drugs I have ever (ab)used are caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco (and the latter consisted of a mere handful of cigarettes smoked during my gay bar days, in a failed effort to look cool).

So I am probably the least likely person to write up a blogpost examining drug culture in social VR and virtual worlds. However, since I am (at least, by my own account) somewhat of an expert on social VR and virtual worlds, I thought it would be interesting to explore and examine those places in the metaverse which celebrate getting high. Why not?

So fasten your seatbelts, and let’s take off! 😉

Second Life

A natural starting point for our explorations is the venerable virtual world of Second Life, where there are no shortage of places featuring drugs (and which, no doubt, people have visited while high).

A quick search on “420” under Places in the Search menu pulled up Commune Utopia, a bohemian, hippie commune since 2011. There were only a few people hanging around, dancing to the music and just chilling out:

Commune Utopia in Second Life

A similar, laid-back vibe pervades the Free Spirit Farms hippie and bohemian community, The notecard you receive upon arrival states:

The idea behind Free Spirit Farms, is to surround ourselves with like minded people who consider themselves, or are free spirited, bohemian, modern day hippies.

Cool, man. However, it would appear that there were only a grand total of three avatars on the entire sim—hardly a Woodstock in the making!

All alone at the spawn point of Free Spirit Farms

One nice thing about Free Spirit Farms is that (if you join the Free Spirit Farms group for free), you can set this place to be your home location in Second Life, unpack boxes, etc.

A keyword search on “drugs” under Places threw up the usual inner-city crime roleplay sims, plus the aptly named Little Brown Mushroom, an absolutely deserted nightclub with a trippy 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s music list and a suitably druggy theme.

A Very Strange Tip Acid Experience Amusement Park was likewise deserted. If there were avatars celebrating 4/20 in Second Life, I completely failed to find them!

So I turned to what I considered my most likely spot to find drug culture in the metaverse:

VRChat

Once again doing keyword searches on “420” and “trip” under the Places menu brought up a few interesting worlds. “Drug” and “drugs” pulled up absolutely zero worlds (which led me to think that perhaps VRChat was censoring the terms). However, a search for “420” pulled up the promising-sounding “420 Forest”.

The 420 forest was nice enough, a winding path through a coniferous forest, lit by green fireflies, leading to a cozy central campfire, but like the places I investigated in SL, it too was absolutely and utterly deserted:

The 420 Forest World was deserted

I did find the Create a Trip world, one of many wonderful worlds created by TheArchitect. Create a Trip was certainly trippy in a kaleidoscopesque sort of way (but you’ll need to bring your own music, and your own drugs for that matter):

I was seriously striking out here, people. It occurred to me that perhaps, square that I am, I simply did not know the right people who could direct me to the right places? It also occurred to me that, on this high holiday of April 20th (see what I did there?), perhaps most aficionados of drug culture would be toking out in real life, instead of messing around in the metaverse?!??

Undaunted, I determined to persevere, and I moved on to… where? Where could I go next? I certainly wasn’t going to find any drug culture in Rec Room. AltspaceVR? Sansar? It would be next to impossible to find a 420 world in Sansar, even if one existed. So I decided to put my Valve Index headset back on my noggin, and headed into AltspaceVR. Perhaps the home of the BRCvr virtual Burning Man festival might provide some 420 content?

AltspaceVR

Success! SUCCESS!!! I finally encountered a group of 420 people in the BRCvr world, just in the final moments before they were shutting down for the day, and indeed shutting down the virtual playa in BRCvr completely, in order to build the next virtual Burning Man world for 2021! Here are a few snapshots I took using the in-world camera:

So, as you can see, there were indeed some people celebrating 420 in social VR!

What 420/drug culture worlds have you experienced in social VR and virtual worlds? I’m quite sure I missed more than a few worlds that were designed to feel like a trip, but as I said up top, I am not an expert. Anybody have any drug-themed metaverse locations for me to explore? Feel free to leave a comment below, thanks!

Photo by GRAS GRÜN on Unsplash

UPDATE 9:07 p.m.: Well, this evening I discovered that WOMBO had uploaded a whole whack of new song clips, just to mark 4/20, so I plugged a selfie of my main male Second Life avatar, Heath Homewood, into the app, and, well…I got to see what Heath would look like, stoned! (More info on WOMBO here.)

I am way, waaay too easily amused, folks.

UPDATE April 21st, 2021: I have been informed that NeosVR does have some drug-related content:

Ahh, I see you didn’t find our drug simulators. Neos has various types of object which simulate intoxicants. There’s also a shisha setup and a vape inside Neos Essentials.

And then I had to Google “shisha” to find out what that referred to (seriously, I didn’t know; it’s another word for a hookah). Apparently, NeosVR also has a series of colourblind vapes, which I assume would simulate various forms of colour blindness. Interesting!

VRChat Lays Out Their Developer Roadmap for the Next Year

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


Yesterday, VRChat held a two-hour developer-oriented livestream on Twitch, in which they laid out their roadmap for the next twelve months: what’s ahead?

Kent Bye did his usual excellent summarizing of the livestream in a series of tweets on Twitter, but I also wanted to write up a bit about what was said, and what it means. The Twitch livestream (which really gets rolling at about the 9:00-minute mark) covers quite a lot a territory, so please consider this just a summary! At times there was a lot of technical jargon thrown around, particularly with respect to server issues, so be forewarned before watching the livestream!

Ron, VRChat’s chief creative officer, and Tupper, the community manager for VRChat, were the hosts who shared the next year’s roadmap with us, with a plea to keep in mind that things can change, as often happens in software development projects! Other VRChat staff joined to talk about projects they were working on.

They report that VRChat Plus (i.e. premium accounts) has so far been amazing, with lots of support. VRChat Plus on Oculus is coming soon, and VRChat Plus gifting is coming as soon as possible.

There was a discussion of the server growing pains encountered as the number of concurrent users has risen over time. Here’s a picture of the VRChat server team, in VRChat!

Tupper then talked about some of the persistent bugs that the team is attempting to fix: audio bugs, problems in the Social menu, avatar load hitching, etc. (starting around the 27-minute mark in the livestream). He created something called the Bug List Bodyslam (seen in the bottom left hand corner of the following image), a graphical representation which helped determine which bugs were highest priority:

Did you know there was a bug called the “head-pat alignment”? 😉 (VRChat users often greet each other by patting each others’ heads.)

The Art team (Rocktopus and Technobabel) talked about the new user interface (UI). Aspects of the new UI have already been released (i.e. some of the features in VRChat Plus), and will be rolled out gradually over time, instead of one big UI overhaul. There will be a new Quick Menu, which will look like this (video at the 38:00 mark):

A sneak peek at the new Quick Menu

The next section was about improvements to avatar dynamics. bones, etc. Kiro, a client-end engineer for VRChat, joined Tupper for this part of the presentation. Among the new features are avatar-to-avatar interaction: avatars actually being able to touch themselves and each other, sparking visual or audio effects! Please watch the video at 55:30 mark in the Twitch livestream to see this feature in action.


There was much, much more which I have not touched upon in this blogpost, so I would recommend you read Kent Bye’s series of tweets for a better summary, or set aside a couple of hours and watch the Twitch livestream itself. I really do wish that other social VR platforms on the marketplace would do something like VRChat’s annual developer livestream. Some do (e.g. Sinespace), and others don’t (several companies which I will not name).

It’s wonderful to see a company like VRChat respond to its community and lay out its future plans in this way!