Nathie Looks at YARTVRA Apps: Nineteen Virtual Reality Apps for Remote Work and Education

Yes, I am still on my little one-man crusade to make the acronym YARTVRA a thing!

For those of you who are new to my blog, YARTVRA is short for Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual Reality App, that is, any social VR platform primarily intended for business use, to bring together people who may be working remotely into a shared virtual office space.

Nathaniël de Jong (a.k.a. Nathie) is a well-known Dutch YouTub influencer with over 558,000 subscribers, who often posts review videos of the latest and greatest VR hardware and software on his channel. A couple of days ago he decided to take a look at, yes, YARTVRA. Obviously, this market segment has received a lot of attention lately because of the global public health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which is probably why Nathie decided to make and release this video.

Nathie actually manages to squeeze no less than 19 different platforms into this 20-minute video, which unfortunately means that he only talks about each platform in a very brief and general sort of way for about minute, before he promptly moves on to the next one.

After a while, the relentless succession of all the look-alike business-oriented YARTVRAs, in particular, tends to overwhelm rather than inform. (ENGAGE still manages to stand out from the crowd in this video, though. And Oxford Medical Simulation definitely gives me some rather creepy uncanny valley vibes.)

Oxford Medical Simulation (image taken from their website)

Nathie appears to have taken as his starting point the recent Road to VR article, 34 VR Apps for Remote Work, Education, Training, Design Review, and More, and, much like the article, he breaks the various platforms down into four groups as follows (with links to their websites, courtesy of the credits in his YouTube video, and also links to where I have written about the products previously on this blog):

Team Collaboration and Presentation Platforms
– MeetinVR https://meetinvr.net/ (which I blogged about here)
– Glue https://glue.work/ (which I blogged about here)
– Connec2 https://connec2.nl/en/ (which is new to me)
– MeetingRoom https://meetingroom.io/ (which I blogged about here)
– Dream https://dreamos.com/ (which I blogged about here)
– VSpatial https://www.vspatial.com/ (which I blogged about here)

Social VR Platforms (those which Nathie thinks could, at least theoretically, be repurposed for business use)
– AltspaceVR https://altvr.com/ (blogged here)
– Bigscreen https://www.bigscreenvr.com/ (blogged here)
– Mozilla Hubs https://hubs.mozilla.com/ (blogged here)
– Facebook Horizon (currently in closed alpha testing, and a non-business-oriented product, so I’m rather mystified as to why Nathie chose to include it in his overview; blogged about here)
– VTime XR https://vtime.net/ (blogged about here)

Education and Training Platforms
– ENGAGE https://engagevr.io/ (which I blogged about here)
– Oxford Medical Simulation https://oxfordmedicalsimulation.com/ (which is new to me)
– Rumii https://www.dogheadsimulations.com/rumii (which I blogged about here)
– Acadicus https://acadicus.com/ (which I blogged about here)
– Wonda VR https://www.wondavr.com/ (which is new to me)

Design, Creation, and Prototyping Platforms
– Sketchbox https://www.sketchbox3d.com/creation (which I have not yet covered)
– The Wild https://thewild.com/ (blogged here)
– Softspace https://www.softspace.io/ (which is also new to me)

So between Nathie’s video and the Road to VR article, I now have a whole bunch of new YARTVRA to explore! Expect more blogposts soon, to add more products to my ever-growing list of social VR platforms and virtual worlds.

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Super Bad Transmittable Contagious Awful Virus! A Selection of My Favourite Pandemic Parody Videos (So Far)

My television died today.

Good-bye, old TV set…
(photo by Gaspar Uhas on Unsplash)

I should hasten to add that it was an ancient, 20-inch, cathode-ray-tube TV set which I inherited from my grandmother when she passed away back in 2004, so this was hardly an unexpected development. Late this afternoon, it started giving off quite a hideous buzzing noise while I was watching various 24/7 news channels, and after turning it off, I discovered later this evening that I could no longer turn it back on. It’s gone.

I should also hasten to add that I pretty much gave up watching any sort of broadcast television years ago. I much prefer consuming TV and movies on my iPad, using various apps such as CBC Gem, Netflix, and YouTube. So really, this is not such a big loss. And it’s a sharp reminder to me, to cut back on the relentless onslaught of coronavirus news coverage.

And, speaking of YouTube, a minor cottage industry appears to have sprung up overnight: coronavirus parody videos of popular songs. I blogged about one parody video a while ago, but the trend has definitely continued, with more creators jumping on the bandwagon! So I thought I would share with you a few sterling examples of this strange but entertaining recent phenomenon.

First up is this straightforward, simple message from Robert Emmett Kelly:

Next up is singer Chris Mann, who has released a similar message to Robert, but in a much more stylish fashion! (He’s got a number of coronavirus parodies on his YouTube channel, including a cover of Adele’s Hello which is also quite funny.)

Next up is another favourite of mine, courtesy of the very talented Daniel Matarazzo:

But I have saved the very best YouTube parody video for last: a British family that has released an updated version of a very well-known song from Les Misérables, which is absolutely genius, in spite of a few flat notes near the end!

Honestly, the level of creativity all of these people have is truly inspiring!

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.

A Long-Overdue Update on the Status of the Metaverse Newscast

The original idea for a pre-taped interview show with the people behind social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse dates back to August 2017, only a month after I started writing this blog (here’s the original blogpost).

I would like to thank two key people, without whom the Metaverse Newscast never would have launched:

  • Tyler Scarborough (Dynamic Evolution in Sansar), who first approached me in August 2017 to discuss the idea of a news show, which I decided to call the Metaverse Newscast.  Tyler also built our first studio, which we did use for several interviews in the early days, before we decided to head out and film our episodes on location!
  • Andrew William of Imagine That Productions, who really did all the heavy lifting: acting as main cameraman for our episodes, then doing all the digital video editing to make the finished product you can watch on the Metaverse Newscast page on YouTube. All I had to do was look presentable, host the show, and ask the interview questions! I think I had by far the easier job, or at least the role of host came easily and naturally to me. It hardly seemed like work at all!

Well, as you probably know, work on the Metaverse Newscast stopped after episode 8. What happened is that Andrew got some paying video editing work in real life, which has unfortunately taken him away from this project.

He is still at work on episode 9, an in-depth interview with Chris Madsen about the educational social VR platform ENGAGE, which has unfortunately been significantly delayed due to Andrew’s current real-life workload. Hopefully, it will come out sometime early this year. I do believe it is our best work to date, and I really do want people to see it! Here’s a sneak preview.

Andrew William and I have had a long talk about where we take the Metaverse Newscast from here. We have four or five shows which we had filmed, but the raw footage needs to be edited into releasable episodes. Andrew had originally found a volunteer willing to help him edit the remaining video (because we have no money to pay anyone to do the work for us, we rely on volunteers), but unfortunately, that arrangement fell through in 2019.

So finally, over the Christmas holidays, Andrew and I agreed that I would sit down and learn Adobe Premiere Pro myself, work my way up the learning curve to become a digital video editor, and finish all the episodes after the ENGAGE one. I had originally hoped to use some of my Christmas holidays to start learning, but of course other things got in the way (including my self-imposed extended break from Sansar, which I talk about here: Part I and Part II).

As time passes, the finished episodes of the Metaverse Newscast are becoming a sort of time capsule, a record of a specific time and place that future VR historians might find of interest.

I do find it rather ironic that, of the two social VR platforms Andrew and I have covered in the first eight episodes of the Metaverse Newscast, half were about High Fidelity (a platform that is effectively shutting down in 2020), and the other half were about Sansar (where I am completely burned out, and I need to take a break).

So, what am I saying? I am saying that I will need to set aside the first half of 2020 to learn Adobe Premiere Pro, using the raw footage Andrew shot of the unfinished Metaverse Newscast episodes to teach myself the basics of digital video editing. So (except for the ENGAGE episode Andrew is still working on), please don’t expect any new Metaverse Newscast episodes for at least another six months, and perhaps longer.

Also, I have approached someone who worked as an additional cameraman on a couple of the very earliest episodes of the Metaverse Newscast, to ask him if he would be willing to become my main cameraman, taking over from Andrew. Somebody needs to be behind the camera as I play the genial host and interview people!

And I am very happy to announce that Carlos Austin has recently agreed to come on board! Carlos is as active, engaged, and interested in the various social VR platforms as I am, and I am grateful to have him as a partner as we move forward on the Metaverse Newscast in 2020, and start filming new episodes. Thank you so much, Carlos! I am looking forward to working with you again.

So, while there will be a bit of a unplanned hiatus, I do expect that the Metaverse Newscast will continue. Please stay tuned for further announcements!