Lessons Learned from 1 Year Working with Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality is still in the early adopter phase; so when most people use it they don’t see it’s raw potential. After holding dozens of events, even interviewing one of the most important tech CEOs of the modern age- we have seen what will make VR more powerful than a Zoom call could ever be…

Last Thursday on The Vance Crowe Podcast, we published our first interview recorded in virtual reality, set in our own custom environment. We interviewed Jim Rutt. Jim was the CEO of Network Solutions during their fifteen billion dollar acquisition, a former chairman of the Santa Fe Institute, and current head of a movement called GameB. With that interview live and us now at a peak in our exploration of the virtual reality space, we have the opportunity to talk about some things we’ve learned so far. We explore virtual reality as part of the work we do surrounding the podcast. We host our monthly book club in VR, office hours with Vance and meet-ups between listeners and even past guests.

About a year ago when colliding with others in physical spaces became drastically more scarce, we started exploring ways to connect virtually. Like many others we were quick to hop to Zoom to connect with our audience and Articulate Ventures Network, but this medium lacked the spontaneity that comes from break off interactions in it’s pass the mic for audio format. We eventually found, and in Vance’s case, rediscovered, VR. Having already had a headset and messed with a few apps solo, Vance was adept with the technology. It was when we were invited to coordinate a custom experience in VR and I too got a headset that we were blown away by the social difference between connecting over VR and video/voice chat.

Physical Space

The initial reaction to the idea of connecting with another person in a virtual space using an animated character might be that it’s more novel than genuine. This is 100% the opposite. If you jump inside VR to connect with someone socially via an app like Mozilla’s Hubs, work with them over a productivity app like ImmersedVR or anything in-between, you will surprise yourself by how quickly your suspension of disbelief lets you see your peer through their animated character.

Observing hand gestures, body language in head and torso movement and perhaps especially the subconscious instinct to follow personal space norms all build the sense of immersion gained through connecting with someone through the medium that- even though you can see someone from a flat bubble, just isn’t replicated over zoom.

Audio Proprioception

Audio proprioception is one of the most amazing things about connecting with others in VR. Because the format on Zoom and other video platforms is pass the mic to talk, there is no need to break volume to add a layer of depth, you simply watch and listen to the person speaking at full volume.

In VR, advanced meeting environments alter the volume of others in the space at a rate relative to how close you are to them physically. This is one of the main reason that we’ve built our AVN Underground Bar over Mozilla Hubs. Audio proprioception in our bar lets us hold a meeting with 10, 15 and often over 20 guests and attention of the group can be focused on more than one speaker.

The layer of depth added by connecting one on one with friends and small groups in VR is one important reason to take note of audio proprioception. It is another dynamic entirely to observe and take part in small breakout groups throughout the space. The ambient noise of others communicating paired with the local conversation with a handful amongst a large group creates a dynamic that is not far off from similar engagements in the real world.

Architecture and other Important Nuances

Many people building in VR think by default to build large, open spaces. We’ve learned that in order to cultivate conversations more like a group in the real world, it’s better to build a smaller, somewhat tighter space to squeeze people together.

Vance and Jim talk about this idea and more nuances to think about when building in VR in this clip from their full interview -

Individual -

Consider joining the Articulate Ventures Network. We hold regular events in VR as well as ‘VR filed trips’ where we set aside a block of time to discover something new together.

Corporation -

We build custom experiences to show thought leaders in a company the value of Virtual Reality. The format is a 1 hour Zoom meeting followed by an immersed experience for up to 7 internal team members —Learn More.

Originally published at https://www.thebenjam.in on March 25, 2021.

I am a disciple of experience. I’ve done many things in my pursuit of novelty, the constant in this pursuit being my direction, which is always forward.

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