November 23rd, 2017

These startups are revolutionizing the way you socialize online – The growth of VR in Socializing

Virtual Reality as such is still in its early days. But some have already explored its social networking potential. Let us have a look at them.

startups are revolutionizing, socialize online

Facebook

It is no surprise that one of the frontrunners in SocialVR is the modern day social networking giant. The company bought Oculus VR, world’s most famous Virtual Reality company for 2 billion dollars back in 2014. So, the amalgamation of world’s biggest social networking company with the world’s biggest virtual reality company promises to be the beginning of a virtually enhanced mode of online socializing. During the F8 conference in 2016, Facebook showcased a working prototype of their Social VR vision. In the demo, the developer on stage wore a headset and was immediately shifted to a virtual space with another fellow facebook developer. There they shared 360 pictures and even clicked a virtual selfie. The team has already started the groundwork for what could be the upcoming mode of online communication. Some of them are;

Oculus Rooms – Oculus Rooms brings a user to the same apartment that was available using Oculus Rift. Once you are ready to make a social interaction with any of your Facebook connection, you can simply select the Party option and you will immediately be transported to a new virtual space that has four distinctive areas.

The launcher area allows you to launch different VR apps or explore other areas in the apartment. Then comes the T.V area where there is a semi circular couch that offers diverse content you can watch on a large virtual movie screen. You can prefer to watch trending, pre selected videos or Facebook videos from you or anyone in your contacts list. A striking feature here is that the videos continue to play even when you move to other areas of the apartment which magnifies the feel that you are inside a real space.

To the left of Application launcher, there is the chat area. Unlike Facebook’s web and mobile social spaces that focus on text and live video, in Oculus Rooms your avatar represents your body and enables interaction with others. Compared to the virtual avatar in Oculus Rift, only the head of the avatar is available in Oculus Rooms presently. A beam of light serves as your virtual body. Then comes the game table that has three games: Lights, Words and Pairs.

Facebook Spaces –  This VR app lets you hang out with friends in a joyous and interactive virtual environment as if all of you were in the same room. Here it is easy to create an avatar that looks the real you. Simply select one of your favorite facebook photos and the app will provide you with options for your Virtual Reality appearance. You can start with any of such available options and then move on to customize them until you feel it is perfect. Your eye color, facial features and even your hairstyle can be modified to accurately depict the real you. In other words, Spaces allow you to be completely yourself in a virtual world. Once you have finalized your appearance, you can get into VR world and invite your friends to join. A special attraction of the application is that you can create anything that can be imagined using a virtual marker. Be it a pair of sunglasses, boots, a fancy hat or a board of carroms. For long, we have watched photos and videos of ours and our friends by being a mere spectator. Memories are special. So, what if you could actually be immersed in the photos and videos you create or view. That is, when you are sharing your honeymoon photos with your friends, you and your friends can be transported to the actual Eiffel Tower and awe the beauty of everything that surrounds the giant structure instead of merely enjoying the beauty of a photograph! Using Facebook Spaces, you can relive any memories from timeline and even generate new ones as you browse through the people and pages you follow. Another striking feature is that Spaces is not just meant for people within a VR world. You can phone any friend in the real world using Messenger Video Calling and bring as many people as you like into your VR environment. So, if you want to show an amazing three dimensional video or just spend time chatting with your friend who is outside the VR space, you can. Furthermore, there is a selfie stick that allows you to take photos of your VR experience and share your VR memories with friends in facebook. Spaces also allows you to pause the VR experience anytime you wish. Pausing takes you into a quiet space where you can take a break. You can even mute or remove friends from your space.

Facebook 360 – This app aims to serve as a hub for immersive photo and video content posted onto the site. The app in its primary stage contains four feeds to deliver 360 degree experience to the user. Just like the ‘Trending’ tab available today, the ‘Explore’ tab in Facebook 360 gives a bird’s eye view of all the popular 360 content from different creators and companies. The ‘Following’ tab lets you delve into the content created by your friends. The ‘Saved’ tab allows you to experience immersive content you may have seen on the internet with an advanced immersive in-headset experience. ‘Timeline’ allows you to explore your own 360 photos and videos.

AltspaceVR

This software startup company based in Redwood City, California is fully devoted in creating social software for virtual reality environments. ‘Verge’, an American technology news and media network named AltspaceVR as one of the most fully developed platforms for virtual social interaction. Eric Romo, the thinktank behind the startup formerly designed rocket engines for Elon Musk’s SpaceX. AltspaceVR allocate meeting rooms in virtual reality so that users can have conversations, watch videos, play games and even browse the internet. One of the core missions of the application is to become a future digital meeting place. Through Microsoft’s motion sensing devices called ‘Kinect’, the avatars in AltspaceVR can mimic a user’s body language. The software also supports eye tracking. Using its simple Software Development Kit, developers can easily bring their apps into VR. Developers can make use of A-Frame components to control different Altspace VR features and resources including architectural building blocks, particle effects, physically blocking colliders, positional sounds etc. Some of the earliest apps from external developers were;

Flappy Dragon – Designed by Thomas Kadlec, this app can be used by kids to pilot a dragon through the dangerous traps set by the village.

Interstellar Defense – Using this app designed by Elijah-Newman Gomez, a user could control the last line of defense between the Earth and its invaders.

Just like in web pages, you can interact with these apps privately and relay them to a display to share with others.

Suppose you are hosting a party in your real physical world. You intend it to be a night full of music and movies. Now, you might have friends who cannot quite make it to the night. Maybe you live in New York and have a best buddy in Tokyo. There is no way he could come down to join you in the physical world. But in the world of virtual reality, literally everything is possible. You can simply host a movie night, game night or any private event with a simple click in AltspaceVR. You can invite anyone to join you by sharing a URL. Be it the friend in Tokyo, Mumbai, Rome or Paris! The team recently created a Party Portal where users could create a portal, choose an activity and invite friends to join. Once you procure an interest, everyone is transported to the event together. Once you click on the portal button, you can select one of the three options: Holograms against Humanity, Video Jukebox, House Party. Once you have made your choice, the portal will appear before you with a gold tether attached. Other users can click the portal and indicate their interest to join. AltspaceVR also features a House Party Space, that is designed after a suburban Los Angeles Home. The space is actually equipped with a swimming pool, frisbees, a grill and pizza! There is also a radio app from where you can select an on demand playlist. Users can make the party friends only or open to anyone in AltspaceVR.

You can also follow any user by simply clicking their avatar and selecting ‘Follow’. So, when you want to check out what they are up to, you can simply jump into their space using the ‘Visit’ button. And like in Facebook Spaces, you can also take a virtual selfie and savour your virtual experiences. If you need to be away from keyboard you can mute yourself.

vTime

Developed by Starship, a Liverpool based studio, vTime allows anyone anywhere in the world to socialize with friends and family in a Virtual Reality Environment. This is Samsung Gear VR’s first Social VR app. The application is designed much like a social network and it allow users to search others by name. One can send friend requests to others and once it is accepted, they can chat face to face in any prefered location inside the virtual reality space. The application features an intuitive gaze based User Interface that makes the navigation an easy process. The users also have plenty of options for customization. A user also gets access to themed chat rooms, combined view of 360 degree images and customized avatars. The themed chat rooms currently allow 4 users at a time. Users can restructure the chatrooms to be an astonishing beauty of the nature or an artistic building. Users can share photos and videos and new users can expand their network by connecting with others that match their interests. People who do not own a VR headset can also take part in conversations. They can do this by using the mono mode which is a 2D window in the metaverse of vTime.

Vcasts is a feature that allow users to record vTime sessions and watch them later. They can be shared as private sessions or to the public library. You can experience any recording as if it were a live session and you can also watch it as many times as you like. Once a user upload their favorite photographs to a free personal cloud storage area, they can opt to share it in 2D display via The Archive which is almost like an atmospheric underground vault to showcase pictures or prefer to have a conversation within the photograph with 360 gallery, which serves as a canvas that is ready to display 360 degree media content.

Inside vTime’s Virtual Reality space, when a user moves his or her headset, it will also move the avatar’s head. But, if you are in a space with other people, you can make use of directional sound – that is, when you hear a sound from your right, your attention will move there. From the beach in Paradise Island to Polar explorations and orbiting in space, vTime provides a handful of interesting destinations for its user. Similarly,  when you have friends online, you will be able to see which location they are in.

 

High Fidelity

Remember the highly popular virtual world Second Life? Philip Rosedale, Ryan Downe and Friedrica Heiberger, the creative brains behind Second Life gave shape to a Social Virtual Reality platform, High Fidelity in April 2013. They aim to create a platform where users can generate and station virtual worlds and explore and interact together in them. Perhaps, this is where the actual Second Life is happening! People can actually teleport themselves into another reality and enhance the sense of belonging. Already, there has been some striking applications of High Fidelity.

Animation Nights New York (ANNY) is a monthly event that provides a stage for independent animators and filmmakers to get their work noticed. ANNY teamed up with High Fidelity to create a Virtual Reality environment that would enable the members of ANNY to join, network and collaborate outside their usual physical meetup. The physical meeting usually takes place at 180 Maiden Lane in Downtown Manhattan. High Fidelity made use of Archilogics technology to generate a three dimensional replica of 180 Maiden Lane and Artella’s technology to collaborate on the content. The space included a screening of animation clips, installations of animations and a ‘Mars Tea Room’.

High Fidelity also sponsored a virtual reality talent show on April 21 2017. The show was held in front of a live VR audience and it welcomed any kind of skill. From singing, dancing, magics to on the spot creativity. The show was aimed to explore the potential of a fully circulated VR avatar in realtime.

‘Shortbow’, is a game as well as a tutorial series that can be used by anyone to build a game from scratch. This bow and arrow defense game tutorial has four parts. The first one deals with making a usable bow and arrow. Programming enemy entities comes next. Setting up game environment and scoreboard and writing a game manager are the final two stages.

SpatialOS

Imagine you are playing a game. You walk into the sphere of trouble and monsters start attacking you. But these monsters are not there when you are outside of the gaming world. But what if these characters are alive, even when your gaming character or avatar isn’t. Additionally, imagine them having a lifecycle of their own. For example, suppose you left a burning ship in an island last week during one of your missions. Today, the island could get depopulated! This is the kind of impact that ‘Improbable’, a London based startup is aiming to generate with their first product, ‘SpatialOS’. While the initial focus was on gaming, the establishment believes their strong simulation can be put to significant use in everything ranging from government, healthcare and city planning. By integrating things like traffic simulation with other models, they can generate data like never before and then we could see things that were once impossible. Imagine ordering a package online but in transit, the truck gets a flat tire. Now, what if you could know what impact that could have in the traffic of an entire city. What about the deliveries for the rest of the day and the effect on the wider economy. What will happen if the Washington Union Station shuts down for a couple of hours. Which street is the least expected to suffer from a hurricane? Herman Narula, the CEO of Improbable explains this as ‘emergent complexity’- a method where simple behavior that you can understand leads to behavior you cannot understand. Narula also explains that his vision is to give the world in a bottle to which you can ask any questions concerning the real world.

TheWaveVR

‘‘Do you like breathing’’ replied Emma Roberts’s Noelle to the question “Do you like music” in the film ‘It’s kind of a funny story’. All of us love Music and TheWaveVR is an exclusive platform for music lovers. The platform enables users to view, host and socialize in shows worldwide, anytime and anywhere. If you are a music creator, you can enthrall your audience by customizing the style in which your audience should experience music. You can transform your space into a realistic nightclub or put on the most incredible light show ever. If your favorite musician is from another country, you might have so longed to watch his or her live concert. With TheWaveVR, you don’t have to worry about geographical boundaries. From the comfort of your room, you could be inside any music event or festival around the globe. You can also meet up with fellow music enthusiasts and make new friends.

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