My Predictions for Social VR, Virtual Worlds and the Metaverse for 2022

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I was going to write up another entry in my ongoing Pandemic Diary series today, but then I read Wagner James Au’s predictions for 2022, and I suddenly realized I had neglected to write up my own blogpost, with my predictions for the next twelve months! So let me polish my crystal ball and see what comes up… 😉

Among Wagner’s predictions is this one, which I agree with 100%—make that 1,000%!

There will be a major scandal or controversy around one of the blockchain/NFT-oriented Metaverse platforms.

With NFTs beset by scams and NFT/blockchain-oriented metaverse platforms seeing low user numbers but extremely high investment and speculation, this is only a matter of time.  

It’s only January 12th, 2022, but I have already written about a number of questionable NFT projects which at best are crazy schemes, and at worst are outright scams! MetaWorld springs to mind as the perfect example of the latter (ALLEGEDLY, I hasten to add, although IN MY OPINION, I don’t believe there is any actual MetaWorld platform, aside from a prototype which was created years ago by someone who has since left the company to work for Somnium Space).

By the way, I have been reliably informed that, after an absence caused by the publication of this damning recent piece of investigative journalism by Engadget, Dedric Reid is once again active on Clubhouse, shilling MetaWorld in his own rooms and in other rooms about the metaverse on the still-popular social audio platform. He’s also relisted his (ALLEGEDLY, IN MY OPINION) worthless virtual land NFTs on OpenSea, after NiftyKit took the original listings on his website down when the original artist he stole the images from to illustrate his NFTs lodged a copyright complaint.

Despite all the negative press from the Engadget exposé and my series of blogposts about MetaWorld, Dedric continues undeterred. Someone joked to me via Discord DMs that Dedric Reid is the Elizabeth Holmes of the metaverse, and I laughed out loud because it’s such an apt, concise description! Harsh, savage, but accurate.

But on to other topics; I am tired of talking about Dedric Reid and MetaWorld (and frankly, whoever falls for his ALLEGED scam at this point is simply not doing their proper due diligence, IN MY OPINION). There’s a lot of actual progress being made by many legitimate metaverse companies building social VR/AR platforms and virtual worlds!

First, Facebook—sorry, Meta! I predict that Meta is going to have a very bumpy year ahead. The company was roundly criticized by the virtual reality community when they announced that. starting in October 2020, all Oculus VR hardware users had to set up accounts on the toxic Facebook social network. While Mark Zuckerberg, in his now-infamous Connect 2021 keynote, said that the company was looking at removing this requirement, I’ll believe it when I actually see it happen. Words are hollow, Mark; what matters are actions.

I predict that Facebook (sorry, Meta) is going to have a rough year

Meta is facing such a never-ending litany of complaints, scandals, and even legal actions that this is, once again, a very easy prediction to make for 2022.

Next prediction: there’s going to be a lot of activity this year in the fuzzy overlap area between games and virtual worlds, what I like to call the “metaverse-adjacent” space. Both games (e.g. Fortnite, Minecraft) and game platforms (e.g. Roblox, Core) will continue to add new features in an effort to become more like social VR/AR apps and virtual worlds. And, given their immense popularity, especially among children, tweens, and teens, many people will get their first taste of the metaverse via these games and game platforms, in much the same way as an entire generation got their start in the metaverse via Second Life.

Speaking of Second Life, in my predictions for 2021, I wrote the following:

And, indeed, 2021 was the first year in which VRChat began to consistently surpass Second Life in user concurrency figures (Rec Room did too, I believe). VRChat has been breaking new user concurrency records, leading up to and including New Year’s Eve 2021, as Johnny Rodriguez tweeted:

Last night, 88,700 people put on a VR headset and decided to join the VRChat New Years event to countdown [to] the new year. For reference, this is Husker’s Memorial Stadium [at the University of Nebraska], which fits around 86,000 people when completely full. VR is here to stay.

Turning back to Second Life, the coronavirus pandemic caused a temporary surge in usage (and the current Omicron wave might well prompt people to dust off their avatars and give it another try, too). I still estimate that SL has somewhere between 500,000 and 900,000 active users per month (that is, people who sign in at least once in the past thirty days). I really wish that Linden Lab would regularly release statistics like this, but if they are declining (slowly or quickly), I can also understand why the company would be reluctant to do so.

It doesn’t help matters that Second Life’s userbase skews significantly older than most other social VR platforms, virtual worlds, and metaverse-adjacent apps like Minecraft, Fortnite, and Roblox. SL users are (literally) dying off! However, Second Life still remains popular enough (and a reliable cash cow) to keep merrily coasting along for many years. And with the deep pockets and good connections of the Waterfield investment group (of which Second Life is now a part), the future looks bright.

I wish I could say the same about Sansar, which from my (admittedly limited) perspective, seems to be circling the drain. I wrote the following post in the official Second Life community forums late last year:

I was part of Sansar since I was invited into the closed beta in 2016/2017, and I was there for the whole crazy ride. Sansar is now on life support (the company that bought it from Linden Lab, called Wookey, furloughed all of its staff recently, and I believe that they could shut down at any moment without warning). Being there from beginning to end, I still marvel at how Linden Lab thought they could build a new virtual world/social VR platform and just put it out there, and expect it to sell itself in this competitive marketplace for metaverse platforms. “Build it and they will come” might have worked for SL in 2003 but it sure ain’t gonna work nowadays. You have to PROMOTE yourself to get noticed.

Also, Linden Lab could have done a lot of things to try and entice SL users to a) visit Sansar and b) make them want to stay, build worlds, create content, and form a new community. Instead, what happened is that Second Life folks (rightly or wrongly) saw Sansar as something which distracted LL from its work on SL, and as a result most SL folks hated Sansar and refused to have anything to do with it, hastening its downfall in my opinion. It also didn’t help that Linden Lab made a bet that many people would be owning high-end VR headsets tethered to high-end PCs with good graphics cards, and instead the Oculus Quest wireless headset took off.

I still shake my head and wonder “what if?”. Say a prayer for Sansar, it needs it. 

Right now, Sansar’s best hope for survival in 2022 is for another company who wants to enter the metaverse marketplace to buy the platform from Wookey, much the same as Microsoft stepped in at the eleventh hour to snap up AltspaceVR.

Another prediction: we are going to see an increase in the number of companies providing services to metaverse platforms. Wagner James Au mentions the Linden Lab subsidiary Tilia, which provides financial services, in his blogpost which I linked to up top; I predict that they will land a few more clients this year. Another example of a company doing well in this niche is Ready Player Me, the avatar system currently in use in VRChat and over 1,000 other apps and games on VR, mobile, desktop, and web. Expect this nascent business-to-business sector to explode this year!

Well, that’s it for me, for now. I might update this blogpost with other predictions for 2022 as they come to me.

And I ask you, my faithful readers: what predictions are you making for the next twelve months? Feel free to leave a comment, or use the feedback form on my blog if you’d prefer to contact me directly. You’re also welcome to join the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, a cross-worlds community where over 600 people, with experience in various metaverse platforms, welcome you! Just click the button on the left-side panel of my blog as shown (image right). If you are connecting via a smartphone or tablet instead of your computer desktop, just click the three-bars menu button in the upper-right hand corner, then scroll down until you see the Discord widget displayed.

The 2021 Raindance Immersive Awards Ceremony: A List of All the Winners

I’m a sucker for awards shows (the Oscars are like the gay Super Bowl to me!). So I was in my element as I watched the two-part 2021 Raindance Immersive Awards, which were hosted in the social VR platform VRChat, with audiences also watching the livestream in-world in both AltspaceVR and NeosVR, as well as remotely on YouTube (the videos are below).

The Raindance Film Festival is the largest and most important independent film festival in the U.K., showcasing features, shorts, web series and music videos by filmmakers from the U.K. and around the world to an audience of film executives and buyers, journalists, film fans and filmmakers.

Powered by HTC VIVE’s Viveport and VRChat, this year’s Raindance Immersive (October 27th to November 21, 2021) comprised immersive VR games and experiences competing for jury awards, as well as the Spirit of Raindance Awards, which are selected by the festival team. Raindance is the only film festival in the world to recognize and award VR on such a scale, so this was a major event!

The Raindance Immersive Awards ceremony for 2021 was in two parts. The first part was held yesterday. The cameraman for the event was my friend (and the co-producer of the upcoming second season of the Metaverse Newscast), the talented social VR videographer Carlos Austin.

If you have never visited VRChat, I think that this 1-hour-and-40-minute video is your prefect introduction! You really get a sense of the wonderful variety and diversity of avatars which are available in VRChat, as well as a good look at the Embassy virtual world where the ceremony takes place.

Carlos deftly steers his camera around the avatars milling about and chatting with each other at the very beginning, before the event starts, and it feels as if you were in a cocktail party, overhearing bits and snippets of conversations! I loved it. (If you want to skip right to the awards ceremony proper, it starts at the 27:56 minute mark, and it runs until the 1-hour-and-13 minute mark, followed by an afterparty.)

The awards handed out in Part 1, in order, were (all links go to the description page on the Raindance Immersive website, with a promo video and more information):

The second half of the awards ceremony was today; it was again filmed by Carlos Austin (the awards ceremony proper starts at the 46:50 mark in the video if you want to skip straight to that part):

The awards handed out in Part 2 of the ceremony, in order, were:

Space Colony Island-4: Explore an 8 Kilometre-by-32 Kilometre O’Neill Cylinder in VRChat, with Curve Gravity!

The O’Neill cylinder (also called an O’Neill colony) is a space settlement concept proposed by American physicist Gerard K. O’Neill in his 1976 book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space… An O’Neill cylinder would consist of two counter-rotating cylinders. The cylinders would rotate in opposite directions in order to cancel out any gyroscopic effects that would otherwise make it difficult to keep them aimed toward the Sun. Each would be 5 miles (8.0 km) in diameter and 20 miles (32 km) long, connected at each end by a rod via a bearing system. Their rotation would provide artificial gravity.

“O’Neill cylinder”, Wikipedia article

There’s a new world in VRChat which is attracting a lot of attention! It’s straight out of a science fiction novel: an O’Neill cylinder that is 8 kilometres in diameter and 32 kilometres long, and it features curve gravity, where you can actually run around in a full circle to land up where you started!

(VRChat is not the first social VR platform to feature such a build; I have visited an similar O’Neill cylinder with curve gravity in NeosVR, writing about it here.)

Here’s the original announcement by its creator on Twitter, with the English translation below it, courtesy of the DeepL translator:

The world “Space Colony “Island-4” has been released! It is an enclosed space colony with a diameter of 8km x length of 32km. Please enjoy the huge scale of this cylindrical world!

Space Colony Island-4 is currently one of the most popular worlds in VRChat, so it’s on the VRChat home screen. Here’s a link to the webpage for the world (this page requires a VRChat account to sign in).

By the way, did you know that VRChat has just updated its Quick Menu user interface? Here’s a two-minute video with the highlights of the new design:


Thank you to Rainwolf for the heads-up!

UPDATED! We Met in Virtual Reality: A New, Feature-Length Documentary Filmed in VRChat During the Pandemic Lockdown

A still from Joe Hunting’s new documentary (image source)

Joe Hunting is a documentary filmmaker whose passion is to create movies in and about VRChat (I wrote about him in August of 2019 when he released his mini-documentary A Wider Screen). He is now working on a new project, a feature documentary called We Met in Virtual Reality.

Here’s an overview of the film, from his IndieGogo page:

We Met in Virtual Reality is an enchanting portrait of social Virtual Reality (VR) app VRChat, composed of intimate and hilarious moments inside global VR communities. The film presents an emotive impression on this new virtual landscape through a poetic collage of stories, exploring how VR is affecting the way we socialise, work, love and express ourselves; told authentically by the users of VRChat through a warm heartfelt lens. 

The overall narrative is made up of three distinct protagonists each presenting unique stories of discovering a romantic relationship through VRChat, and using VR to cope with poor mental health. These core narratives flow between each other in a linear fashion through Winter 2020 to Summer 2021, delivering a compelling journey amidst the more observational moments in other VR communities.

Filmed entirely inside VRChat using cinematic virtual cameras during the Covid lockdown crisis, this film captures a precious time in an underground cultural movement that will soon shape the world we live in; additionally highlighting contemporary subjects such as of coping with poor mental health, modern forms of sign language, non-binary gender expression and finding love beyond physical interaction. Everyone appearing in the film will be addressed by their virtual usernames without any real life imagery, immersing audiences into a new cinematic documentary experience.

The trailer for Joe’s documentary dropped yesterday on YouTube, and I must say, it’s looking really good!

Joe is running a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGogo to cover the costs of the post-production work on his documentary before it is released. If the trailer piqued your interest (as it did mine), then why not throw a donation Joe’s way? I’m sure he would appreciate it! I donated £15 to the project, just for the thrill of seeing my name in the thank-you credits… 😉

Joe explains the need for funding:

I have a beautiful rough cut of We Met in Virtual Reality already finished, but it is nothing without your support to get it polished and released! I am raising £10,000 to cover all the music licensing, which is necessary for the films release. Any additional funds will go towards subtitling and captioning, which is an absolute necessity as well, plus submission fees for film festivals eg. Sundance, SXSW, Hot Docs, Tribeca, Sheffield Doc Fest… and LGBTQ+, deaf and hard of hearing focused festivals. These festival screenings will help tremendously is securing the film on accessible streaming platforms for public release in the fall of 2022.

Your contribution can get you a number of special perks, including getting your name and VRChat avatar in the credits, tickets to exclusive screenings and producer credits! If I do not reach my goal, any funds received will still be put towards what is mentioned above, and I will seek further investment elsewhere.

I am quite looking forward to watching this full-length feature documentary when it is released. You can watch Joe’s earlier work, A Wider Screen, below:

UPDATE Oct. 10th, 2021: Joe Hunting sent me the following thank-you card for my donation, featuring an image from the documentary: