Governments are pointing their fingers at Facebook

Bi-weekly update with the latest insights from the Metaverse: news, posts, creations, and communities.

Hello hello! I’m a bit late this week. It’s been a really intense month with how hard Covid hit my family, so sorry about that.

We have a very interesting newsletter this week with great thought pieces and some very cool creations that I’m personally excited about. Facebook tends to be the main character of many of the newsletters, and normally not for positive reasons. It’s the case again this time.

Facebook has been surrounded by controversy and malpractices for years now and things are getting hot. Governments like Germany and the US are heavily pursuing these malpractices and going after their monopolistic tendencies. We’ll have to see how things pan out, but I sure hope this helps push for a more open Internet.

On the news

  • Facebook launching a cloud gaming reality show: A partnership with Genvid to launch Rival Peaks. It’s a Twitch Plays Pokemon kind of game where viewers choose the next steps of the game’s characters. Genvid is building the underlying platform for cloud games that viewers can also interact with. I think it’s a very interesting concept and I agree that cloud gaming shouldn’t just be about playing regular games from a server. [Link]

  • A-Frame 1.1 is out: It’s been 5 years since the release of A-Frame and they are celebrating with an awesome release. Proper Quest 2 and AR support are the 2 most prominent features. But it also supports some Oculus Browser specific features like hand tracking, immersive navigation, and compositor layers. I do hope these features reach other browsers, but Oculus has a bit of a monopoly in VR browsers. Also, make sure to check out their sleek new t-shirts that help support the developers. [Link]

  • Bloomberg writes about FB’s malpractices trying to kill competition: We’ve talked about this before in the newsletter, but it’s now reached mainstream media. Bloomberg wrote a detailed article of different accusations against Facebook from teams like Yur, Virtual Desktop, and BigScreen. Facebook has tried to copy and buy these companies to kill them and maintain a monopoly. Kent Bye recently released an interview with Cix Liv, ex-CTO at Yur, going deeper into these topics. [Link]

  • FTC wants to break up Facebook: The FTC and the Attorney Generals from almost all states make a call to divide Whatsapp and Instagram from Facebook. This is a big and bold move against Facebook. The claim is for monopolistic reasons and anticompetitive actions. They say that Facebook bought these companies to avoid competition. We’ll follow this case closely as it could have very big effects in the tech sector but might also affect Facebook’s crazy investment in XR. [Link]

Food for Thought

  • Finding love in online games: This has happened since the 80s, but Wired has written about this decades-old news that people can find community and even love online. The article is specifically around games, which is relevant to the metaverse. As we do more and more things online, and with issues like Covid, it’s understandable that we’ll establish relationships in this way. The main advantage is being able to meet people way outside your geographic boundaries and being able to share meaningful experiences with them. [Link]

  • Discussion around the meaning of Metaverse: Liv, from the Hubs team, started an interesting discussion on Twitter. She asked what Metaverse meant to people and received a diverse range of answers. There are comments about openness, connectedness, the evolution of the Internet… It’s well worth taking a look at the thread. [Link]

  • Culture creation in social VR: Jessica Outlaw is the best researcher around social VR. She writes very insightful posts based on her studies on how to create welcoming and caring communities in VR. Her last post is around creating culture. She goes over the different tools that will shape the culture and values of a community in general but are equally important in VR. [Link]

Cool Creations

  • XR reality tools: The team at Scapic, recently bought by Instacart, just released a set of tools for 3D workflows. These tools range from creating mockups to managing your 3D files. It’s great to see XR companies sharing the XR tools they are building. [Link]

  • immersive-ar emulator: Ada is back with another awesome WebXR project. It’s an emulator for AR experiences made with WebXR. Most of us can’t afford AR headsets, so this is very helpful. It’s basically a VR experience of a room that can load up WebXR AR content. [Link]

  • Balenciaga made a cloud game to present their new collection: Now this is a first. Presenting a fashion collection via a game. And even more, it’s a cloud game. The launch was very successful in the gaming community. It was unexpected and pretty high-tech from a non-tech company. I love the innovation. [Link]

  • Jel is a 3D social document: Greg Fodor, previously founder of Mozilla Hubs, has recently announced his new project: Jel. It’s a multiuser 3D application (no VR support yet) that’s basically a 3D representation of Notion. People can create different documents, which are 3D worlds, and add content to those documents. I am super excited about this project. This is where most of my thinking has been drifting towards and Greg went out and built it. [Link]


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Thanks for tuning in, that’s it for today. If you find anything interesting that we should post in the next one, reach out via Twitter or Email.

See you in 2 weeks!

Alberto

First metaverse to go public

Bi-weekly update with the latest insights from the Metaverse: news, posts, creations, and communities.

Hey folks! Hope you’re keeping safe and your family is doing well.

The big news this week is that Roblox is going public. I believe it’s the first metaverse company that’s doing so. Some virtual universes are growing really big, and not just in the pure number of active users, also in the impact they are having on our culture. Games build communities around them, and as we move more of our lives online, they become an important part of our social and creative lives.

Ready Player Two also released last week. The first book was my tipping point to get into virtual reality. I read it and thought, okay, I love this idea and I want to contribute to making something like the Oasis, but decentralized. This wouldn’t be the panacea, decentralization only helps in removing full control from one single organization. We also need to consider other side-effects from platforms that take us further away from our physical bodies and the people around us.

On the news

  • Roblox is going public: Some companies go from 0-to-IPO in just a few years, and it was even faster in the Dot Com era. Now, some stay private for longer or just continue to persist until their moment arrives. That’s the case of Roblox, created way back in 2004. Usage was already soaring lately with kids, but the pandemic brought in a 68% increase in revenue this year compared to the year before. There are now 31M daily users and 18M created experiences. Those are staggering numbers. Onwards and upwards, hopefully pushing to a more open and decentralized platform. [Link]

  • Servo moves to the Linux Foundation: Some good news after the Mozilla layoffs that rid them of Servo. Why do we care about this? Well, there are fewer browser engines now, and they are all very old. Servo is a rethink of how a browser engine should work to become more performant. They implemented WebGL and WebXR to great success. Luckily the efforts will now continue. [Link]

  • Ready Player Two discussion in BigScreen: The sequel to the blockbuster book Ready Player One came out last week. To celebrate the launch, Ernest Cline, the author, will join Darshan Shankar, CEO at BigScreen, for a Q&A. Fictional and real metaverses coming together! [Link]

  • Depth sensing and Light Estimation AR in Chrome: An Origin Trial for the Depth Sensing and Light Estimation API is coming to Chrome for Android in version 87. This should give WebXR apps access to the same capabilities as native apps. Chrome is paying more attention to AR features than VR, but it’s still important work. [Link] [Link]

Cool Creations

  • Nodes beta is out: It’s a new node-based 3D code creator. You can basically manage the 3D hierarchy of your scene with nodes, which are like code blocks that can be joined up. To simplify things, it’s like a mix of Scratch and 3D node editors. It comes with an inspector too. I really want to give this a go and see if I can actually think about my code differently. I’m curious if a VR viewer would be helpful. [Link]

Interesting Meetups & Communities

  • Metaverse tours: There are different metaverse platforms and it’s hard jumping into one and getting the hang of their full possibilities. Virtualis is offering different tours to experience VR Chat. They have different options that act as an intro into specific aspects of the metaverse. There’s one around virtual currencies and another one to learn how to explore your virtual identity from inside VR Chat. It’s a great way to get into a virtual world and meet new people in a more accessible and comfortable way. [Link]


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Thanks for tuning in, that’s it for today. If you find anything interesting that we should post in the next one, reach out via Twitter or Email.

See you in 2 weeks!

Alberto

The metaverse has major privacy concerns

Bi-weekly update with the latest insights from the Metaverse: news, posts, creations, and communities.

Good evening all!

Like always, there’s a lot happening in the metaverse space. This week, I’m especially excited about new virtual worlds. People are making more and more interesting things in the metaverse and we’re still right at the beginning.

The most important part though is that related to privacy. There are a couple of articles out there outlining a completely connected home. I don’t know if we’ll go that far, but there’s little doubt that IoT is a crucial component of the metaverse. We bring the physical world to the digital world and vice versa. This means sensors everywhere, including our private homes. We need to start considering privacy concerns starting yesterday and luckily many people are on top of this.

On the news

  • Babylon.js 4.2 is out: Babylon is the often overlooked 3D framework for the Web. It’s supported by Microsoft and is extremely powerful. This new version makes it a lot easier to use with big improvements to their GUI editor tool. It’s a more encompassing framework than Three.js as it does a lot more for us. That might remove some flexibility but it should also make things easier. [Link]

  • Google releases an object detection dataset: To develop an object detection neural network, you need a big dataset with videos and images from different angles of the object to train the network. Google just released a pretty big one with 15k annotated clips together with 4M images. These annotations include AR metadata like camera poses and sparse point-clouds. [Link]

  • Lil Nas X concert in Roblox: The virtual concert frenzy continues and Roblox doesn’t want to be left behind. With a staggering 33 million people watching, it seems like they’ve done a damn good job, at least in viewership. It seems like they had a scavenger hunt while you waited for the concert to start and some in-game merch stores. I love those ideas. I saw the concert video, and, at least for me, it’s way deep in the uncanny valley. [Link]

Food for thought

  • The importance of persistence in virtual worlds: Michael Dempsey is back with another essay around persistence. This concept has been searched for in gaming for decades, but it’s tough to do technically. It needs a good amount of infrastructure and complicated backend software. We’ve seen different companies try to offer persistence as a service like Improbable and the unreleased coherence.io.

    Animal Crossing has been very successful in part due to the persistent nature of its world. If we put persistence together with user-generated content, we could end up with much more engaging virtual universes that give people reasons to return. [Link]

  • Scientific American thinks Spatial Computing is the next big thing: In the article, they envision a future where every device is connected and works for you. They use the accessibility example where even tables move in space to where you need them. Making every device intelligent and connected to meet your needs is a future talked about a lot. I can’t help worrying about all the privacy issues that come with it. This can only be built in a decentralized way with proper encryption so only you can control these devices. This is no easy feat and for now, the connected home space is being won by big tech with centralized technology. [Link]

  • A warrant is needed for your in-house sensors: The EFF recently wrote an article outlining the issue that police forces may attempt to gather information from the sensors in our homes. These sensors, like inside-out tracking, could even map our homes creating a mirror-world of them. This is a lot of information about our private spaces. They go on to explain previous judicial cases that would justify a warrant to access this information in the US. Currently, there’s no clear legislation for it, so this is the best we can do. It’s important work by the EFF to leave this outlined in case it’s needed. [Link]

  • 100 WebXR monetization ideas: Avaer, from Webaverse, has posted a Twitter thread with 100 monetization ideas for WebXR projects. It comes with a talk in Hubs going deeper into them. [Link]

Cool Creations

  • Train to different WebXR voxel worlds: In a previous issue, I talked about Daniel Gatunes’ WebXR voxel editor. With that, he’s created a whole set of different virtual worlds. There are different physics’ based experiences and some worlds that are there just to explore like a museum. The really cool thing is this train experience to move around from one world to the other. It’s a very interesting concept and one that I hadn’t seen yet for world traversal. Some virtual worlds can even be multiuser experiences. Seems like the start of a cool WebXR universe and it’s also available on SideQuest. Dani is also creating tutorials on Youtube to learn how to make virtual worlds with his technology. [Link]

  • Adobe publishes tutorials to make 3D content: Start 3D is a set of tutorials to get started creating 3D models. As 3D becomes a more important part of our digital worlds, it’s important to make the creation process simpler. One part is more and better tutorials. It’s nice to see Adobe jumping in. [Link]

  • WebXR search API: This a new interesting utility. It’s an API that lets you search for different things relevant to WebXR virtual worlds. Searchable categories include 3D models, avatars, and even WebXR sites. It can also fetch specific elements of a virtual universe like a Hubs room or a Cryptovoxels parcel. It’s one of those things that sounds like a great idea and very interesting. I don’t know why, but I can’t help like the idea a lot. Thing is, I don’t see myself using it right now. [Link]

Interesting Meetups & Communities

  • Balaji introduces The Network State. Balaji, a known person in the crypto community, has created a set of lectures about creating a state online. These lectures talk about how it will work and a roadmap to build it. And the whole point of it is to actually make it happen. It will start as an online university and then bootstrap an economy. It will all be open source and coordination meetings happen in VR. People trying out these crazy ideas was bound to happen. Let’s see how it goes, I’m sure it won’t be the last. [Link[


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Thanks for tuning in, that’s it for today. If you find anything interesting that we should post in the next one, reach out via Twitter or Email.

See you in 2 weeks!

Alberto

Virtual worlds for events are getting creative

Bi-weekly update with the latest insights from the Metaverse: news, posts, creations, and communities.

Howdy! One more day before the election and many of us have our attention there. But if you want a distraction for a few minutes, here’s another Simbol newsletter for you.

This issue comes with several other tools to create multiuser virtual worlds. They keep on appearing and it’s great to see. The tooling is still far from ready to make creating virtual worlds accessible.

The most interesting part though is taking a look at different events happening in all sorts of virtual worlds. We have one happening in a mirror world, one in an old-style MUD, and another in a WebXR world. Each example pushes the frontier of just doing Zoom calls for conferences. The technology is here, it’s just hard to use and requires a dose of imagination. Luckily, many creators take up the challenge.

On the news

  • Pokemon Go wants you to create the Mirror World: A new update to Pokemon Go adds a new mapping feature. This allows certain players to do certain tasks around mapping the real world to create a virtual representation of it. If you recall, Niantic bought 6D.ai, an AR Cloud company. Now they’re starting to create this age-old concept called the Mirror World: a virtual replica of our planet. These things come with huge privacy risks, but 6D.ai seemed very on top of them. I far prefer Niantic to map the world than Facebook with their new AR glasses. [Link]

  • Normcore 2 is out: The creators of the social game Half & Half have been working on their Unity multiuser plugin called Normcore. It has become more and more popular, and now they just released a v2. A user says it improves latency, cleaner API, clear VOIP, quicker load times, and it’s cheaper. Sounds like a great update. I wish we had Normcore for WebXR. [Link]

  • Colyseus is a multiplayer Node.JS framework: Endel on Patreon is making Colyseus. It’s a framework for a multiplayer synchronization server. There are clients available for multiple platforms like the Web and Unity. It’s made with games in mind. Sounds like a simple way to get started with multiuser games on the Web. [Link]

  • Facebook game streaming service is coming: Jason Rubin has recently announced on Twitter that they are started to roll out their own game streaming service. And of course, it’s “free”. They also criticized Apple for their closed system as they can’t launch the service on iOS which is very ironic. I used the opportunity to take a jab at them. Making the service fake-free just makes it more worrisome. [Link]

  • Immersed adds physical keyboard tracking: Immersed is a collaborative working environment. You can be there with teammates with multiple virtual screens. They supported hand tracking on Quest and they’ve now added a manual calibration to tell the application where your physical keyboard is. That way, they can show a virtual representation in VR. I think all text input in VR is going to be like this until we get some kind of BCI. [Link]

Food for thought

  • Online public parks: Blair Macintyre, well known in the WebXR space, discusses the Wired article about online public parks. The original article tells the story of public parks in New York and their importance for community building. It’s a structure that needs to consider and adapt to all kinds of people. Blair tries to bring these ideas to VR. How can we make serendipitous encounters happen in digital spaces? The spatial nature is the critical part to produce these encounters. [Link]

  • The history of MUDs: A worthwhile read (though quite long). It goes over the history of multiuser virtual worlds. They started in the early 70s, and though lacked graphics, they already showed the traits in current MMOs. In the end, these types of games bring in ideas that come from Dungeons & Dragons. I particularly liked hearing the story of games that didn’t prioritize fighting. It was more about socializing and living whatever life you wanted. Games started to deprioritize these features for the sake of simplicity. World of Warcraft was the first to prove that clear gameplay and fast action bring our basic instincts out, which produces more sales. I sure would like more Star Wars Galaxies-like games to be popular again. [Link]

Cool Creations

  • LÖVR is another 3D framework: A framework designed for VR in Lua. It takes care of all the basics to get started with a VR application. The good thing is that it exports to all platforms, including WebXR using WebAssembly. [Link]

  • Immers Space merges Hubs and ActivityPub: An attempt to build a more decentralized metaverse. It’s an open-source project, with its code on Github. They have an ActivityPub server that works with their Hubs implementation. For those who haven’t heard about ActivityPub, it’s a W3C spec for federated social networks used mainly by Mastodon. I love to see experimentation in these areas and I look forward to trying it. [Link]

  • Playing Go in Hubs: Fabien, probably the most creative person with Mozilla Hubs, jumped quickly into the challenge to play Go in Hubs. Hubs wasn’t built for games, but that didn’t stop Dean Masley from proposing the challenge and Fabien from solving it in just a few hours. Fabien is also doing very interesting things with Hubs as a mind palace, trying to move his years-long wiki into it. [Link]

  • Virtual events in MUDs: Em Lazer-Walker, organizer of Roguelike Celebration, decided to innovate to take their event virtual. Instead of just a bunch of Zoom calls, she tried to create a space where people could feel present and bump into others. She went with a MUD environment with different rooms. Each room had its own chat and one room was where the talks happen. There was even a bar with a made-up drink that would add a random emoji to your name. I think this might be my favourite virtual event experiment so far, and it’s not even VR! I’m actually not sure if we could bring some of the fun and presence features into VR, as making them 3D would bring a lot of complexity. It’s also uncomfortable to wear a headset for the 6-8h an event might last. [Link]

  • WebXR layers for crisper images and text: Diego Marcos, A-Frame maintainer, has published an example WebXR comic reader. He uses a new WebXR spec for composition layers. This improves visual fidelity and reduces power consumption. Diego mentions that it’s more expensive to change the layer, so it’s better for static content like images and text. [Link]

Interesting Meetups & Communities

  • FIVARS Immersive Stories Festival: This is a VR and AR story festival. It can be viewed on any device including from a headset via WebXR. The 3D experience has been made by James Baicoianu using his JanuxXR technology. You can listen to the Voices of VR podcast for more information. [Link]

  • Halloween in Shibuya goes virtual: Similar to the live concerts in a virtual Helsinki a few months ago, now a virtual Shibuya is hosting different Halloween events. Anyone can join from a PC or a VR headset. These Mirror World events will probably become more and more popular. Even if we also host events in novel places that don’t exist in the real world, there’s still something there to mirroring familiar places. [Link]


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Thanks for tuning in, that’s it for today. If you find anything interesting that we should post in the next one, reach out via Twitter or Email.

See you in 2 weeks!

Alberto

Quest 2 is here and long live WebXR

Bi-weekly update with the latest insights from the Metaverse: news, posts, creations, and communities.

Good morning, afternoon, or night! Quest 2 reached customers last week. I wrote my thoughts on Twitter about it. Love the screen clarity, big improvement there. But lots of people have ended up with a bricked device because Facebook blocked their accounts. Boz tried to justify it, but many of us just don’t agree.

It’s scary that an account we use for intimate moments defines if we can use a computing device or not. And that’s without getting into the privacy worries (we’ll do that down below). At least VR developers are seeing a very significant increase in sales.

On a lighter note, WebXR is doing great. I’ve discovered several creation tools this month. They’re still new and rough, but it’s a great start. I just hope they stay alive for long enough to reach mass usage. There are new WebXR experiences released as well, together with more Discord groups and newsletters that bring us together. I love the vibe in the community!

On the news

  • Filecoin launch on mainnet: It’s here. The $200M ICO from IPFS parent company Protocol Labs is live. FIL tokens have traded like crazy since. This is one of the most hyped launches in blockchains. For those unaware, it’s a decentralized hosting marketplace. IPFS is a decentralized HTTP where sites are hosted by different devices on the network. There was no easy way to make sure other computers were actually hosting your site, and that’s what Filecoin solves. [Link]

  • Hubs is ready for Halloween: As we can’t properly celebrate Halloween this year, the team from Hubs has decided to take it on themselves. They now offer different spooky scenes for you to host a Halloween party. They’ve also prepared a set of aptly themed avatars. And of course, anyone can create their own scene or avatar. Love the idea, though it would be fun to have some Halloween-related game options as well to have something to do. [Link]

  • Anonymized HMD data can still identify you in <5m: A paper from the Stanford VR lab proves that 6DoF tracking of both your head and hands is enough to identify a person. This would make that data count as biometric. This paper comes out at a timely moment with FB making mandatory logins on Quest with an increase in data collection. [Link]

  • Quest 2 is out and Game devs see a spike in sales: UploadVR posts a collection of tweets by VR developers. They report increases in sales by up to 10x on the day that Quest 2 launched. These are sales compared to the day before. More and more people know about Quest, and I think the Quest 2 will bring even more people into VR. I do suspect that growth will be limited by people’s fear of Facebook harvesting our data. It’s a pity they decided to enter this control zero-sum game. [Link]

Food for thought

  • Using VR for testing sessions: Jessica Outlaw, a well known Social VR researcher, wrote a post about conducting user testing sessions inside VR. She outlines the positive aspects of Social VR apps like Hubs for this use case. It lets you interact with global participants while guiding their attention to wherever necessary. VR is also a great environment for whatever kind of mockups that may need testing. [Link]

  • The history of MUDs: A worthwhile read (though quite long). It goes over the history of multiuser virtual worlds. They started in the early 70s, and though lacked graphics, they already showed the traits in current MMOs. In the end, these types of games bring in ideas that come from Dungeons & Dragons. I particularly liked hearing the story of games that didn’t prioritize fighting. It was more about socializing and living whatever life you wanted. Games started to deprioritize these features for the sake of simplicity. World of Warcraft was the first to prove that clear gameplay and fast action bring our basic instincts out, which produces more sales. I sure would like more Star Wars Galaxies like games to be popular again. [Link[

Cool Creations

  • Create voxel scenes for the Web: Daniel Esteban, who’s been working on multiuser WebXR voxel worlds, has now created a voxel scene editor. It comes with support for physics as well. [Link]

  • Wonderland, a WebXR development platform: Both a JS library and a development environment. Wonderland wants to make it easy to create high-quality WebXR applications. It’s already using technologies like WebGL 2 and WebAssembly. It’s still early days, but these tools won’t be created with a full feature set from one day to another. I hope it continues to evolve for a long time. [Link]

  • nunustudio is a three.js framework and IDE: Another interesting development environment. It takes care of many features by default like physics, audio, WebXR, and animations. They also offer a graphical editor to simplify workflows. [Link]

  • XR Garden is a relaxing WebXR experience: Ada from Samsung has created a new WebXR experience. This time it’s a sea garden with fishes roaming around and relaxing 360 music. I’ve tried it and can confirm: 100% relaxing. Brandon, from Google, suggests using the number of fishes the demo can show to be a new performance metric for WebXR. Let’s do it! (Spoiler: 70 on Quest, 370 on Quest 2 at 72Hz) [Link]

  • Hubs avatar creator: Rhiannan has created a neat simple tool to customize an avatar that can be imported into Hubs. It works for human-like shapes with multiple body and head customizations. You can also modify the clothing. [Link]

Interesting Meetups & Communities

  • Immersive Web Weekly: A newsletter created by Jordan Santell and now heralded by Trevor Flowers. Make sure to check it out to get a weekly dose of the latest things happening in the Immersive Web space. [Link]

  • WebXR Discord: Recently, a Discord server for the WebXR community has been gaining popularity. Make sure to stop by! [Link]


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Thanks for tuning in, that’s it for today. If you find anything interesting that we should post in the next one, reach out via Twitter or Email.

See you in 2 weeks!

Alberto

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