Social VR has a ways to go in the virtual reality area. But vTime is a fascinating development that could transform virtual environments into social spaces. vTime is largely device agnostic, working with Google Cardboard, Gear VR and Oculus Rift. One assumes Daydream VR headsets will fit in when they appear this fall.
vTime’s Social VR
As a social VR platform, the virtual environments in vTime are fairly static. You’re not going to record a 360 video, upload it, and then explore an immersive space with your friends. You use the preset scenes offered, though you can upload a 360 degree immersive photo if you do not want to use vTime’s work. The focus here is totally on the social aspect.
Here’s the description from Engadget:
The main hook of vTime is a socializing feature where users can just sort of sit around and chat with family and friends (or their avatars, to be precise). The app currently offers a variety of exotic and pre-rendered settings in which to virtually hang, so this is your place if you’ve ever dreamt of catching up with pals on a Parisian rooftop at sunset, or talking to your VR-ready grandparents while dangling on the side of a cliff. (Which might actually be therapeutic for your friends with acrophobia.)
Like AltspaceVR, which supports much more activity – and sucks up bandwidth – the participants in vTime are represented by avatars. This gives the scenes echoes of Second Life with one significant difference. You’re in a setting created with a 360 immersive photograph.
Here’s vTime’s short video:
The Future of Social VR
Even in the limited format offered by vTime, you can see fascinating applications in entertainment, retail settings (travel and real estate sales) and education. The possibilities are wide open. Imagine a class meeting in a virtual setting in another country, or sitting in the middle of an historical site, or even while orbiting the earth.
There are numerous developments in the social VR space. AltspaceVR’s hosting of the recent Reggie Watts VR performance gave us a glimpse of the future of live performance and virtual audience participation. Facebook’s F8 conference earlier this year revealed interaction in virtual reality by people in remote locations. Even more, Facebook demoed the sharing of 360 immersive photospheres.
vTime’s platform is a lot less ambitious but may be perfect for where virtual reality is at the moment. If Facebook has proved one thing, we like to talk. With some comfortable VR headsets, this could become an easy way to interact in VR environments.
See you on the side of a cliff.
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.