REWIND talks about the ways lockdown demonstrates how much we need human interaction, and how it shows the uptick in VR interest as people look for new ways of contact
Virtual reality allows us to connect and to share on a whole new level. It enables us to gather with friends anywhere on the globe and share experiences that would never be possible in the real world, or just hang out watching movies together. Not only can people enrich existing friendships, but they can also make new friends through the ever-growing catalogue of social VR experiences.
Jerry Gottheil, marketing director of Altspace, a social platform for VR, said: “When you meet with somebody in VR, there is a sense that you are together, that you experience something with that person in a way that you wouldn’t [otherwise].”
Seeing VR as the future of social media interaction, Facebook acquired Oculus back in 2014, with a vision to connect the world in a more meaningful way. The ambition is huge - Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously said he wants to connect a billion people in virtual reality. In 2019, Facebook announced it was building Horizon - a virtual reality sandbox universe - that builds on previous social VR attempts: Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms.
In the initial announcement on the Oculus blog we learned: “At first, people will hop into games and experiences built by Facebook, like Wing Strikers, a multiplayer aerial experience. But that's just the beginning. People will also jump into various other Horizon worlds, built using the World Builder, a collection of easy-to-use creator tools. Everyone will have the power to build new worlds and activities, from tropical hangout spots to interactive action arenas, all from scratch—no previous coding experience needed.”
In May this year, HTC co-founder, Peter Chou revealed XRSPACE - an end-to-end social VR platform consisting of hardware, software, content, and services. In the ever-expanding world called Manova, users can enjoy a variety of different activities, from playing mini-games, shopping, and exercising, to immersing in a personal cinema experience. But it’s not all play, users can work with others in dedicated meeting rooms and learn through experiences reality couldn’t offer. Manova is set to open its doors during Q3 2020.
Peter Chou: "Our mission is to bring people together through the power of 5G XR, surpassing the limited experience of smartphones today. The singular goal of XRSPACE, is to take XR to the masses by redefining how people connect, socialise, and collaborate by simplifying the hardware and user experience. When XRSPACE started three years ago, we have been laser-focused at putting regular customers in everything we do.”
In addition to the social VR platform, Chou also launched a headset. Designed with ease of use in mind, the Manova headset is the first 5G consumer mobile VR headset, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile XR Platform, and fully portable anywhere with 5G, LTE, or WiFi connection. While we wait for Horizons and XRSPACE to go live, there are many other social VR platforms that can improve your digital hangout time. Below are just some examples:
VRChat offers a wide collection of social VR experiences by giving the power of creation to its community. VRChat allows users to play, hang out, and (of course) chat, using spatialised 3D audio, expressive lip-synced avatars, multiplayer VR games, and virtual space stations where users can watch YouTube videos with friends.
This platform aims to revolutionise the way people work, play, hang out, and collaborate within the VR space - with virtual movie nights, LAN parties, PC games, and many more multiplayer activities. In Bigscreen VR, you can use your Windows computer in virtual reality to view your desktop on huge monitors, as well as share your desktop with other users. Rooms can hold up to 12 people from all over the world, and you don’t have to worry about compatibility - Bigscreen is available over PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and WMR. Recently, Bigscreen added 50+ streaming TV channels, including sports, gaming, movies, anime, news, and more to the service—all for free!
Rec Room is a free platform that consists of thousands of player-created rooms, each with a different multiplayer activity to participate in. Team up with friends or meet other VR users from all over the world, across all types of devices including PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and WMR. Customisable avatars make sure you look the part when you participate in virtual laser tag, paintball, and many other games.
- Rec Room
Sports Bar VR
This application does just what it says on the tin—it’s a virtual sports bar where up to eight players can play classic bar games including pool, darts, and air hockey. In addition, you can take on daily challenges to earn tickets that allow you to customise your avatar, customise your pool cue, and decorate the environment around you with unlockable items. It’s also cross-platform, so you can play with all your friends on HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Valve Index. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, join a random session and hang out with people you don’t know!
AltspaceVR is the “easiest way to meet people from around the world,” not only can you play interactive games but you can also attend free live events with comedians, DJ’s, authors, and celebrities from the comfort of your own home. See which of your friends are online at the touch of a button and get reminders for events you’re interested in. The audience in Altspace is diverse and ranges from 13-60, so no matter your age you can join in any conversation that takes your fancy. Again, this one is cross-reality, so no need to worry if you’re an Oculus user but your best friend uses a Vive - you can both enjoy this one.