Virtual reality demonstration by AltspaceVR

Who I am
Michael Naimark
@michaelnaimark
Author and references

Summary

  • The beginnings of virtual reality
  • AltspaceVR and social apps
  • The AltspaceVR demonstration
  • Virtual reality connects people
  • Conclusion

 

The beginnings of virtual reality

At the moment, virtual reality (VR) is still in its infancy. Corporations spend millions, and in Facebook's case, billions; in this new emerging technology that you can take with you everywhere. But, for many people, especially those who have not tried it yet, it remains a vague concept, and it is difficult to understand.



 

On the internet, most of the VR demonstration videos that can be seen about video games, or simply people standing while they explore a virtual world. Business Insider editor-in-chief Henry Blodget recently gave it a try, and he was standing on the roof of a building and looking at everything around him. Despite this innovation, it is difficult for many people to answer the question “”

Well know that social apps are the super apps for virtual reality.

 

AltspaceVR and social apps

Founded two years ago, AltspaceVR raised a fund of 4,8 million euros in a campaign to create social applications in virtual spaces, but instead of building a bunch of standalone apps, this company is working on simple ways to connect and convert 2D internet into a 3D virtual environment, where you can, for example, watch the FIFA World Cup with 70 other people while being in a giant virtual lounge.


Admit it, I was a little skeptical before testing the demo. Why would I want to spend the time and money on buying and tuning a virtual reality rig just to watch YouTube videos with a few friends? I needed more arguments to be convinced.


 

The AltspaceVR demonstration

Well, now I am. Instead of trying to expand on my experience, let me give you the summarized version of what I did and saw:

  • After putting on the VR headset, putting on my headphones and choosing my customizable robot avatar (which looked like the EVE robot from the Pixar movie “Wall-E”), in a few seconds I found myself in a giant Japanese zen garden, which gave the impression of floating in the sky. I could see a small dojo, a huge chessboard, and in the distance a giant screen displaying web applications such as YouTube. It was really well done.

  • Another robot suddenly appeared a few steps in front of me, it was my host, the founder and CEO of AltspaceVR, Eric Romo. Thanks to the Leap Motion Controller (device that captures the movement of your hands and fingers) placed in front of the Oculus Rift, Mr. Romo and I were able to see our own hands, wave to each other and shake hands. Every now and then Mr. Romo's name would appear next to his avatar, I can easily imagine a Facebook extension that would allow me to add as friends those I meet in a virtual reality space.
  • While Mr. Romo explained to me all the characteristics of this 3D world, his gestures and movements head were translated into VR in real time. Which was quite remarkable since, although he was a robot avatar, his body language made me feel like I was in the same room as this person. Even in video games, avatars have idle gestures that seem quite unrealistic. He didn't, his hands moved as he spoke, and his head tilted forward slightly when he laughed.



 

  • With a mouse, we could easily teleport anywhere on the “map” of this Japanese garden. Mr. Romo then showed me the power of 3D audio : When he teleported away, his voice was much less audible. Then he teleported close to me and whispered in my ear. Even when I just turned away from him, his voice was less heard. This was just another of the many facets that made this experience very immersive and realistic.
  • We moved to the giant chessboard, where Mr. Romo explained to me that apps like this don't need to be built from scratch, which would take weeks or even months. No it was a 2D application that has been converted to 3D within a few hours. AltspaceVR is working on designing a clear set of rules to make it easy for developers to convert their JavaScript work into virtual reality, which would save developers a lot of time, and really open doors in terms of content.

 

  • Then we visited a new space. This time we were in a giant modern living room with a floating staircase and a bench placed in an alcove, all illuminated by a screen that had to be at least 100 inches (i.e. 255 centimeters). This is where I understood why we would want to watch the FIFA World Cup here. Why go to a crowded bar or stay in your Parisian apartment, when you can teleport to a huge villa (which would certainly cost millions of euros), where you will watch the game with as many friends as you want?
  • Finally, before our demo ended, Mr. Romo summoned a giant solar system to the middle of the room. All of these realistic elements! It was impressive to see a giant sun appear right next to the sofa, with a few planets circling around it, just to remind you that everything is possible in the virtual world.

 



Virtual reality connects people

The technology is not yet perfect, but I now understand the true potential of virtual reality. The activities and games are well done, but the social aspect is what really matters. As humans, we are bound to fit in, and we use technology to improve the relationships we have with the people we like. AltspaceVR showed me, the next big frontier in virtual reality is connect people.

Putting dozens of people in one virtual room is almost like putting real people in one real room: You can talk, play music, watch movies together, and you can walk around the room to join the conversation. 'other people. But the virtual world offers also new opportunities. Not everyone can afford a huge villa to host a hundred friends for a “House of Cards” marathon, but if you have the Oculus Rift, you can.

It would appear to be the kind of experience Facebook is interested in as well, although it hasn't been explicitly said. During the F8 conference, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer asked why we like going to the movies with friends when we don't talk during the movie. “”, He said. “”.

 

Conclusion

The most interesting part of my demonstration of Altspace was reminding myself that this was just the tip of the iceberg. If we can let developers easily create 3D applications that take hours of work, not weeks or months, then we can live and remember new experiences with our family and friends, regardless of our location, health, or physical limitations. As the famous quote from Christopher McCandless explains, “”.



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