Mixtive’s VR Conference: A Brief Introduction to a Social VR App for Meetings

Mixtive is a Swedish company which has partnered with Telia Company and Sony Mobile and create a 3D meeting service called, simply, VR Conference. Yep, another example of YARTVRA: Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual Reality App.

Here’s a few videos of the platform in action:

Note how awkward the hands on these avatars look! Using Telia VR ConferenceSony 3D Creator, and Shadow Avatars, users can create a 3D avatar that resembles them, although the results do have that creepy Uncanny Valley aspect to them (there’s no audio on these two videos):

According to their website, Mixtive’s VR Conference app supports the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets, as well as iOS and Android apps. You’ll have to contact Mixtive via their website to obtain a copy of the software to test, and to get pricing information.

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Arthur: A Brief Introduction

Arthur is another social VR platform I discovered via Immersivt’s report, from a German company called Arthur Technologies GmbH. It is YARTVRA: Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual Reality App. (And yes, I am going to keep using that acronym in hopes that it catches on among the rest of the population!). There’s a fifty-second promo video (no audio), to give you an idea of what the platform looks like:

Frankly, Arthur’s avatars leave a lot to be desired. To avoid having to rig eye movements, the avatars all wear black sunglasses like Corey Hart (“I wear my sunglasses at night…”). To avoid having to rig the mouth, they all wear wraparound black microphones that cover the avatars’ mouths so closely, they look as if they are being gagged! And the avatars’ arms fade out to controllers instead of hands. The avatars look extremely off-putting, and it’s a definite strike against Arthur.

Also, there’s really not a lot of information about Arthur on their website. Arthur is quick to tick off the benefits of remote teamwork: lower carbon emissions, less staff commuting, financial savings.

There’s really nothing here to make Arthur stand out from the crowd, as far as I can tell. It looks as though you have to get in touch with the company via their website in order to try out the software, and there’s no pricing information available. So, if you’re looking for a social VR platform to support remote workteams, you can take a look at it. I will be adding it to my comprehensive list of social VR/virtual worlds, along with all the other YARTVRAs.

Glue: A Brief Introduction

Glue is a social VR platform created by a company out of Helsinki, Finland. It’s another example of a category I like to call YARTVRA: Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual Reality App. Glue describes itself as:

Glue is a modern collaboration platform that takes advantage of recent advances in immersive 3D graphics, virtual reality, and cloud computing. It is intended for business professionals who need global remote access to a shared team space for efficient collaboration.

Among the features offered by Glue are 3D avatars, spatial audio, post-it notes, whiteboards and freehand drawing, and the ability to export work created in-world through their web user interface, in various supported file formats. Supported VR headsets include:

  • HTC Vive and Vive Pro
  • Oculus Rift and Rift S
  • Oculus Quest
  • Valve Index
  • Windows Mixed Reality headsets

Glue has three different pricing levels: team (up to ten users at a flat rate of 500 Euros per month, charged annually), organization (for 10-100 users), and enterprise (for over a hundred users):

There’s a platform overview document which you can download from their website, which gives more detailed information. You can also follow Glue on social media via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I will also be adding Glue to my comprehensive list of social VR/virtual worlds.

Zoom Goes VR: Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual Reality App (Avatars? Who Needs Avatars?)

You might remember that I coined an acronym which I hope starts to catch on in the industry: YARTVRA, which stands for Yet Another Remote Teams Virtual Reality App. This is an emerging use for VR, and I have compiled a list of YARTVRA apps in this recent blogpost.

Well, it would appear that LearnBrite (which I have blogged about before), the company behind Zoom (the well-known, popular remote conferencing service) wants to embrace virtual reality, and hop into the nascent YARTVRA marketplace.

It looks like they are offering a couple of different ways to represent each remote participant. Take a gander at the following one-minute video, showing three men communicating via flat-screen video “avatars” in a 3D photograph of an office:

Watching this, I ask myself: why would anybody want to do this? What benefits does this bring? Sorry, but this is just weird. No avatars at all? Horse confetti?!??

Here’s another one-minute video showing you not only the flat-screen video “avatars”, but also a tantalizing glimpse of an actual, 3D avatar:

In the first part of this video, Zoom again eschews user avatars completely, choosing instead to have each participant displayed in a video screen in a 3D virtual conference room. However, notice at the 0:38 mark in this video, someone puts on an Oculus Quest VR headset, and you can then see his three-dimensional avatar standing in one corner of the conference room.

Here’s another one-minute video (no audio) that shows you a bit more of the setup for the Oculus Quest:

Now, it’s not clear to me if this is a real avatar that you can embody, able to move around the room, or if it is just a stationary object, a placeholder that merely represents the user. Unfortunately, there’s not enough in these videos to be able to tell!

In a page from the LearnBrite website showing you how you set up a virtual room in Zoom, the company states:

Why?

LearnBrite already includes tightly integrated WebRTC conferencing capabilities such as audio, video, VR presence and dial-in by phone.

In some enterprise environments it may be preferable to leverage the tools already in place, this helps with costs and also managing change in an organization. If everyone is already familiar with using Zoom, then adding VR to it can get better user “buy-in” than asking them to use a new or different solution.

But whether or not this is actually something that is going to be truly useful, something that adds a real benefit to remote work team collaboration, remains to be seen. So I’m a little skeptical, and frankly, I want to see more of this in action before I pronounce final judgement (especially how they implement 3D avatars).

As far as I can tell right now, this half-baked solution just gives LearnBrite the bragging rights that they now support Zoom in VR, without a lot of the features seen in competing YARTVRA products. Sorry, but I’m not impressed. This looks like a cheap gimmick to me.