Traveling Between Social VR Platforms: Does VR Market Success Depend Upon a Seamless, Interconnected Metaverse?

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One of the people I follow on Twitter is Ben Lang, who is the co-founder and executive editor of the popular virtual reality news website Road to VR. Yesterday, he posted:

I’m starting to think that VR won’t have its consumer mainstream moment (smartphone levels of adoption) until a comprehensive metaverse emerges that interconnects and makes *all* VR content social to some extent. Stuff like this awesome immersive music video is really freaking cool, but would be 100 times richer if discoverable through something a simple as a ‘VR hyperlink’, as well as easily being able to bring a friend along to experience it. Telling a friend ‘hey there’s this cool new thing, come check it out with me’, and then asking them to download an app and then coordinating a time to get online together to invite each other and then *finally* seeing the thing for 10 mins isn’t tenable for smaller experiences.

The immersive music video he refers to is a new free VR experience on Steam called Sheaf – Together EP, and it’s truly a wonderful, relaxing experience, which I can recommend highly:

Ben is making the point that it shouldn’t be so difficult to share VR experiences such as this with friends. And a seamless, interconnected metaverse would probably give a huge boost to the consumer VR market.

Another Twitter user called Matrixscene responded to Ben, with a link to a two-part report on how a metaverse working group did a field test for traversing disparate virtual worlds to see how they interconnect with each other.

Part 1 of the report gives several examples of links or portals between social VR experiences, for example:

  • Portal links in JanusVR
  • Links in Cryptovoxels to other WebVR sites

Part 2 of the report details a “field trip” the author and several other people undertook to see how well they could navigate between various virtual worlds. The places visited included:

The author, Jin (Madjin) writes:

We were communicating over Discord’s voice chat the entire time. Anarchy Arcade served as the most premium base reality we ventured to on this trip for several main reasons:
– Shortcuts were easy to launch
– Universally compatible
– Optimized heavily in the background

So, as you can see, the first tentative steps in cross-linking virtual worlds have already been taken. However, the work of creating a much more comprehensive and seamless metaverse to benefit VR consumers still faces many significant hurdles—including a patent filed by IBM in 2008 that appears to cover teleporting avatars between disparate virtual worlds.

How soon do you think it will be until we get a truly seamless VR metaverse? Or do you think it will never happen? As always, you are invited to join the ongoing conversations on this and many other topics on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the first cross-worlds discussion group!

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Taking a Look at Current Academic Research on Social Virtual Reality (Part II): Treating Substance Abuse Disorders with VR

ENDGAME is a long-running talkshow set on the social VR platform of VRChat:

Don’t panic! The end is always nigh for the old world. Endgame is a talk show / group discussion that takes place in the Metaverse (the social layer of virtual reality). Its focus is on technology and the future. Change is inevitable for all species; will we eventually destroy ourselves, or are we destined to transcend what we currently are? Get involved in the conversation by joining us every other Wednesday at 7pm PST / 10pm EST in VRChat. Or you can watch our livestream and previous recordings here at our Youtube channel. Come share your thoughts about the future of the world we share together.

One of the three regular hosts of ENDGAME is Noah Robinson (a.k.a. Psych; Twitter; LinkedIn), a clinical psychology doctoral student at Vanderbilt University and the founder and CEO of Very Real Help, a compnay devoted to building a new Internet-based clinical research platform “that can both treat and inform our understanding of psychopathology”.

In a recent episode of ENDGAME, Noah gave an hour-long presentation of his academic research on how social VR could be used in the treatment of people with substance abuse disorders. Here’s a two-minute YouTube video overview of his research:

Noah’s research interest focuses on exploring how VR social networks can be used as telehealth interventions to treat mental health disorders. He stresses that VR will not replace, but rather supplement, in-person therapy, and that there are still not nearly enough counselors to provide services to the millions of people suffering from addictions in the United States and around the world. Especially after getting out of rehab, patients experience a lot of distress and anhedonia, which tends to lead to relapse. Noah suggests that VR may be particularly effective to prevent relapse in patients with substance abuse disorders.

Here is Noah Robinson’s presentation in full:

Although there is already plenty of anecdotal evidence that virtual reality has a positive impact on mental health disorders (including my own personal experience), there is still a strong need to collect and analyze data in well-designed academic research projects. Noah’s research is fascinating and exciting to me, and I look forward to any papers that are published as a result of his pioneering work.

VRChat Implements Avatar Performance Blocking to Provide a Better Experience for Oculus Quest Users: Recent Changes Have Led to Some Complaints

VRChat’s Move to Cross-Platform Content Has Led to Some Discontent

VRChat is making more changes to its social VR platform to better accommodate users of the wireless Oculus Quest VR headset, and some VRChat users are less than happy with the overall direction of VRChat, complaining that wired VR headset users are suffering at the expense of wireless users.

In an official blogpost dated June 11th, VRChat announced a new minimum displayed performance rank was added to the platform, mainly to improve performance for Quest users of the platform:

You can choose to block avatars based on their Avatar Performance Rank. This option is available in the “Performance Options” menu, accessible as a button in the top-right of the Safety tab in the main menu.

When you choose a Performance Rank in this menu, all avatars that are below that rank will be blocked by default and replaced with a placeholder avatar. You can choose between “Medium”, “Poor”, or “Very Poor”.

On VRChat for PC, the Minimum Displayed Performance Rank is set to “Very Poor” by default. This means that no avatars are hidden by default on PC. You can choose between “Medium”, “Poor”, or “Very Poor” options.

On VRChat for the Oculus Quest, the Minimum Displayed Performance Rank is set to “Medium” by default. You can choose to change this to “Poor” to permit showing avatars of that rank, but you may encounter performance issues. In addition, you cannot select the “Very Poor” level on VRChat for Quest. In other words, avatars that are ranked as “Very Poor” will never display on VRChat for the Oculus Quest. 

(This is essentially a version of the Avatar Rendering Complexity system which was implemented a couple of years ago in Second Life, where you could “turn off” other people’s avatars which placed a heavier burden on the graphics card of your computer.)

Over on the VRChat subReddit, some users are not happy about all the recent changes:

I am no developer nor a programmer but i can feel if, things get better or worst, and VRChat is 100% getting worse and worse every update and i hate to see it going that way. I have spent 1300+ hour in this game and i loved every minute of it except the crashers. With the resent update I felt like VIVE and Oculus users were pulled down to the sake of Oculus quest users, no hate on them I dont blame them they just want to experience the fun that we had, the only problem that bothers me is the drawing with a pen, it [is] so bad. Hope VRChat team can figure out the best solution for us.

Another user writes:

After reading through some threads, in particular FloppiiiVR’s thread: Thanks Devs to fuck all of us Animators over, I decided to make a thread to clarify a few things and share some thoughts about VRChat’s current state… I’m usually not the type to speak up in public, but I feel like a few things need to be said. The latest patch has brought a lot of mixed feelings in the community and it’s been reflected throughout VRChat, the subReddit and many Discord channels dedicated to the game. Obviously the direction and changes that the devs are going to with the game are unhealthy for the game, whether you agree or disagree with said changes doesn’t change the fact that it’s leading to a lot of drama within the community.

I feel like a lot of this also has to do with the Oculus Quest as it’s far less capable then PC VR. Trying to mix a mobile platform with a PC platform is possible, but it shouldn’t cripple the higher end of the spectrum as it should still be the majority and your main target audiance.

And I have to say, based on the time that I have spent so far in VRChat in my Oculus Quest, that it now feels as if that VRChat has been split into two separate platforms, with very little overlap between them. Perhaps this situation will improve over time as more people create worlds and avatars that can be seen by both groups of users, but it is clear that the most recent changes made to VRChat have not been universally appreciated by its much larger wired VR headset userbase. I predict that VRChat is going to face some signifcant challenges trying to keep both wired and wireless headset users happy.

My Top Ten Most Popular Blogposts So Far

You never know ahead of time which blogpost you write is going to become popular (which I define here as “most visited”).

For example, I have the rather dubious distinction of being the first hit when you search Google on “vrchat adult” (and that particular blogpost is now my 13th most popular ever). It would appear that many people are interested in finding adult content in VRChat! But here’s a tip, folks: if you’re really that interested in adult content on VRChat, your best bet would be to ask around discreetly and find out who can introduce you to the right people who run invite-only worlds, and not to do a Google search. Just sayin’…

I also appear to have developed a niche as a source of information for people searching for steals, deals, and freebies in Second Life. My most popular blogpost (racking up over 7,000 views) is my post about free and inexpensive mesh heads and bodies for female avatars. A parallel post for male avatars is now my 7th most popular blogpost, with over 2,300 views. And my post about the best freebie stores in SL is my 6th most popular blogpost, with over 2,700 views. Of my Top Ten blogposts, six are about Second Life, including my recent post about changes to fees in Second Life, which has had over 4,800 views so far. So, as you can see, I get a significant amount of traffic from Second Life users on this blog, so I will be continuing my coverage of that platform. (I know that some of my readers are mystified as to why I would bother to cover a 16-year-old, non-VR-capable virtual world.)

Here’s my full Top Ten list:

  1. UPDATED! Second Life Steals, Deals and Freebies: Free and Inexpensive Mesh Heads and Bodies for Female Second Life Avatars
  2. UPDATED: More Details on the Upcoming Ability to Change Your User Name in Second Life
  3. UPDATED! RyanSchultz.com Reader Poll: What Social VR/Virtual World Do You Spend the Most Time In?
  4. UPDATED! Linden Lab Announces a Mix of Good News and Bad News for Second Life Users
  5. UPDATED! Oasis: A Brief Introduction to a New, Adults-Only Social VR Platform
  6. Second Life Steals, Deals and Freebies: The Four Best Freebie Stores in SL
  7. UPDATED! Second Life Steals, Deals and Freebies: Free and Inexpensive Mesh Heads and Bodies for Male Second Life Avatars
  8. Second Life Versus Sansar: Why Linden Lab Can’t Win, No Matter What They Do
  9. Comprehensive List of Social VR Platforms and Virtual Worlds
  10. UPDATED: Earning Money Creating Custom Avatars in VRChat: An Interview with Ghoster