This week’s content focuses on the aspect of “Social” within VR, such as:

  • Augmented Reality: Where We Will All Live by Jon Peddie (“Types of Augmented Reality” Chapter, 2017)
  • Voices of VR Podcast #905 VRChat: Empowering the Creativity of User-Generated Virtual Worlds & Avatars (2020)
  • Voices of VR Podcast #883 ‘Rec Room:’ Social VR World Building Platform on PC, Console, Mobile, & VR (2020)
  • Voices of VR Podcast #566 VRChat Anecdotes + Dealing with Harassment & Tolling in Social VR (2017)

This chapter on “Types of Augmented Reality” explores the taxonomy of different devices as illustrated by Ronald Azuma.

There is a hierachy structure system featured which places all the devices under the main categories of wearable or non-wearable AR. For example, wearable would be considered a HMD or Head Mounted Display and non-wearable would be a smartphone.

In addition to this, each specific type of device is then placed under another sub-section dependent on it’s purpose and or design. The sections are:

  • Contact Lens – still in early development and there’s no consumer product available.
  • Helmet – device is classed as a helmet if it covers the users ears and most of the face.
  • Heads Up Display – includes anything from add-on displays (e.g. car diagnostic display)
  • Headset (Smart Glasses)
  • Projectors
  • Specialized

I found this quite interesting as it went more in depth and covered different devices that I hadn’t really considered to be a different sub type of ar technology.

This podcast was an interview with the founders of VRChat, Jesse Joudrey and Graham Gaylor. It mainly addressed the key selling point of VRChat such as the users ability to customise their avatar. The game is a huge success in the VR market and has over 6 million registered users with 5–10,000 concurrent users depending on the day of the week. This means a potential of 10 million created avatars for players to use.

Avatars are a way for users to express their identity, to an extent, they can be what they want as long as its not an offensive representation. One example was with a user role playing as a stick of butter! The developers put in place a few parameters for avatars but mostly left it up to the users; by letting go of the authoritative design aspect, it allowed users more creative freedom.

It was also great to hear that the developers want to further support community members making content such as avatars. They want to enable creators the ability to monetise (make money from) their content and aid developers with creating further assets. One popular space for buying and selling is the Virtual market – this is a space in vr chat with virtual booths hosted by japan to allow content creators to buy and sell content to other users.

They also highlight the importance of users needing to upload different versions of created avatars for optimisation purposes unless it was originally created for mobile. There should be at least higher resolution version for pc and a more optimised version for mobile e.g. Quest 2 and creators should abide by the set limitations for each platform.

One of the main advancements mentioned is the incorporation of a visual scripting language called udon which will allow for more powerful tools for user content creation.

Community labs – this is their community based solution to moderation. Each new room receives a rating based on the users experience before being released to the public. It has report functionality and human moderators in place to support in case the prior systems fail to detect unwanted content. In addition to this, users will also receive a trust rank. For example, they will lose the ability to create content if they’ve been reported a certain number of times. On the other hand, spending time in game and by consistently being a good, moral player, you’ll move up in your rank; each player starts as a new user.

I also took the opportunity to explore the content on Rec Room, with a fellow student, Brett. Here are some screenshots below taken in game showing his avatar and one of the experiences a user had created; replicating a Spongebob episode. Other games we tried out included: paddle ball, rock climbing, parkour course (which I discovered I am awful at!),

I discovered that the experiences that were the most enjoyable were the most simple in design such as the parkour and rock climbing course. They were challenging and provided a sense of achievement plus it was fun laughing at each other failing and having to try again.

On the other hand, a few more complex experiences were not as enjoyable such as an “Escape Room Horror Hotel” escape room and “Do you copy?” which is a fan made VR version of an existing title. This was mostly due to the need to go through doors and have frequent loading screens which broke the immersion for me.

This podcast was an interview with Gunter S. Thompson, who is a host for VR meetups in VRChat.

For the most part, he describes his fond experiences and the many memories he has formed from the events hosted in game which ranged from mountain climbing to a pub experience named “The Great Pug”.

The Great Pug is a fascinating example of user created content as it is an in-game exact replica of a real life pub modelled from the blueprints and coined one of the most popular hangouts in the metaverse. Gunter states that he often enjoys a drink in real life whilst inside the virtual pub with friends to truly immerse himself within the experience.

This conversation mainly highlights the strong community present within VRChat as many users befriend one another and even meet each other outside of the virtual space. The time spent inside the universe also has a long lasting effect such as Gunther even states that some of the virtual memories are more prominent to him than real-life ones!

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