Can VR grasp this opportunity?

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

Events continue to move fully online and Metaverse prospective platforms are getting ready for it. This year’s edition of GDC has been the latest to move to a virtual format and Fortnite has broken records once again with a Travis Scott concert attended by 12.3M concurrent people. This is pushing the boundaries of different technologies and platforms in ways their makers hadn’t imagined or didn’t expect to happen so soon. There are some awesome examples in the newsletter today.

VR continues to grow at an increasing pace. Oculus Quest is now starting to become easier to find worldwide after the manufacturing shortages. I just hope we didn’t miss too much of the momentum behind Half Life: Alyx and the quarantine. But if we did and we missed this growth spike, the general trend is still looking great.

Read ahead for all the cool things people are making and saying. Stay safe, we’re here for the long haul!

On the news

  • Dreams PSVR support almost here: There are amazing creations in Dreams and the question on all our minds is when is it coming to PSVR. And the answer is real soon. It’s now in the last development phase. What seems like the best 3D/game creation tool will be greatly enhanced by VR native interactions. Amazing creation tools are the main missing link to make the Metaverse happen. [Link]

  • Late night talk show in Animal Crossing: People breaking boundaries yet again. A screenwriter from Star Wars, Gary Whitta, is launching a Twitch stream from Animal Crossing and talking over his character moving in the game. I love the creativity here, it’s definitely something I’m sure the creators of AC didn’t expect their game to be used for. It’s probably not the ideal platform for this, but it is the platform many are going to so they can relax a bit from quarantine life. [Life]

  • Mozilla Hubs Cloud is live: Extremely exciting feature from the Hubs team. Easy configuration of your own personalized Hubs server. It currently works only with AWS, but they’re working on Digital Ocean next. This is a major step for people to easily create their custom multiuser virtual environments. They have a stable product that’s been working great for a lot of use cases and now we can all build on top of it. [Link]

  • Finland holds a VR concert for 700k people in a virtual Helsinki: Their big May Day celebration in Helsinki was cancelled, so they turned to VR company Zoan that’s been building an exact virtual replica of Helsinki for 5 years. They organized a virtual concert in it with people acting live with a green screen. Attendees could even join in from a browser and use VR. This is one of the coolest and most polished uses of VR and virtual worlds that I’ve seen to date. It’s a glimpse into the future. [Link]

  • Steam users with a VR headset reaches 2M: Likely thanks to Half Life: Alyx, and possibly the quarantine, the percentage of Steam users with a compatible headset grew from 1.29% in March to 1.91% in April. This is roughly 2M users from a rough estimate made by UploadVR. It’s a really big increase in just one month, and many have been Oculus Quests. I expect this larger monthly growth numbers to keep up through the rest of the year as VR network effects and great content come into play. [Link]

Food for thought

  • The NYT asks itself why VR is still so niche during the covid crisis: The reporter attempts to try VR again, but was only able to grab hold of an Oculus Go. I also believe your first experience can make or break VR for you, and there’s not a lot of options on Go. Social VR also doesn’t do it for most of us, we don’t like talking with random people doing random things. He did enjoy relaxing apps like Nature Treks VR, which I’ve been using to disconnect during the quarantine too.

    The main answer for the VR market not growing faster is clearly not enough headsets being produced. It’s a shame this opportunity was missed, but there’s no way to fix that now. I’m still an optimist. The market continues to grow, the content is getting better and better and I have high hopes for the next 2 years. [Link]

  • Architects discuss the design of Half Life Alyx: In a recently uploaded live conversation, architects C. Fredrik V. Hellberg (Space Popular) & Andreea Ion Cojocaru (NUMENA) talk with Kent Bye about the architecture and design of Alyx. It’s a 2h long conversation that I’m sure will be worth your time. [Link]

Cool Creations

  • Stream into Zoom from Mozilla Hubs: Liv Erickson has built a green screen studio room and worked on a setup to stream into a Zoom call from it. It’s a great experiment aligned with the work done by SPACES, but from Hubs and more DIY. [Link]

  • Shopify experimenting with AR: They’ve recently launched a couple pretty cool experiments. One is size.link, which lets you set the sizes for a box and see how something of that size would look in your space. The other one is Wayfinding for stores. It’s really cool to see so many companies betting on the space. [Link]

  • Facebook working on VR text entry called PinchType: It’s a highly experimental system that only manages to reach 13 words per minute. But innovation on this front is still necessary. PinchType is based on assigning a group of letters to each finger, and you tap your fingers using finger tracking. A ML algorithm then detects, based on the context, which word you meant. [Link]

  • Aardvark lets you add AR widgets to your VR experiences: They’ve launched a Chromium-based application that loads what they call Gadgets made with their React library. Their application then loads these widgets into whatever VR applications you may be in. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but the video shows an example of Aardvark working with the SteamVR Home. I love the idea of integrating into existing apps seamlessly, that’s the right move to reach adoption. [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