This month we will explore Social VR.
Virtual Reality once thought of as a solitary experience has developed into experiences that can be shared between multiple people.
Indeed watching someone in a VR headset is not inclusive at the best and extremely dumb looking at the other end of the nerd spectrum. Social VR allows many participants to be in common environments and interact together.
Multiplayer Games exist and can be fun for 2. But Social VR allows for interaction at a different level. Anything you could consider doing in a social web app can be done in these Social VR experiences and more.
At the heart of these experiences are Avatars. Avatars are the representations of "players" in these environments as an icon or figure. Participants can choose, design, and buy these representations of themselves in these spaces. Much work goes into creating Avatars and they are the subjects of interesting research.
In 2014 Facebook, made a bold move by acquiring Oculus VR for $2 billion. A company that specializes in internet social interaction stepping into VR is not a vanity purchase. The power of Social VR is real and Facebook knows it.
We are lucky to have special guests that specialize in Avatars and social virtual reality.
Caitlyn Meeks is a Evangelist for High Fidelity. This company has developed an open-source application for building and deploying virtual environments (domains) to desktop and server computers. The virtual domains are designed to be social and interactive.
Caitlyn is an accomplished Digital Artist and is prolific in Avatar design. Join HighFidelity.com and navigate to the Marketplace and use her fun creations for free!
Also Joshua McVeigh-Shultz a Post Doctorate Scholar at UCSC Digital Arts and New Media will share his research on Avatars.
Joshua is studying social VR in the Social & Emotional Technology Lab at UCSC. He earned a PhD in Media Arts and Practice from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and an MFA in Digital Arts & New Media from UCSC. He is currently researching social VR and studying how design choices shape aspects of social interaction in this medium.
Abstract for Joshua's talk:
Commercial social VR applications represent an emerging media ecology. Like the early days of the web, what it means to "be social" in VR is up for grabs, and somewhat arbitrary design choices we make today could have an outsized influence on the ways that we communicate in the future. In short, there is an imperative to understand this evolving landscape better and articulate the kinds of social practices and design choices that we as a society want to nurture. Applications in this emerging landscape include: Rec Room, High Fidelity, VRChat, Mozilla Hubs, Altspace VR, AnyLand, and Facebook Spaces. Each of these applications offers a different answers to the question: what does it mean to "be social" in VR? Drawing from expert interviews, this talk examines how design choices shape social interaction through factors such as: onboarding, aesthetics of place, context cues, embodied affordances, media bridging, social mechanics, and moderation. Drawing on this analysis, we propose an emerging design framework for supporting pro-social behavior in VR.
Join us for a fun night and possibly leave with a new alter ego!