This is the second in a series of four posts exploring how virtual reality will drive the future evolution and direction of virtual worlds – what we’re calling ‘Virtual Worlds 3.0′. Part One laid out the development and progress of the virtual world sector through stages 1.0 and 2.0 and can be read here. This post delves into Social Virtual Reality, one of the three main growth areas of VW3.0.
Let’s start with a (very simple) definition:
Social Virtual Reality is a virtual environment designed specifically for multi-user social interactions using virtual reality headsets.
In a literal sense, this is the ‘chat room’ concept that we all understand, only now actually allowing the user to be ‘in’ the room.
The graphic shown below positions Social Virtual Reality in our VW3.0 map using the variables of Self-Expression and Presence. The Self-Expression axis relates to the degree of customisation that a user can conduct in a virtual word, i.e. is UGC permitted.
The greater the self-expression that greater the ability for a user to customise their avatar and create/modify virtual objects and the environment. Presence relates to the feeling of ‘being inside’ a virtual world. Virtual reality is much better at creating presence than a virtual world experienced on a monitor, even if it’s in 3D.
Of course, user to user (or more appropriately avatar to avatar) communication in virtual rooms has been around for as long as virtual worlds have been in existence and we anticipate that the emergence of Social Virtual Reality will open up this market eventually to the masses.
Type of Messaging
Looking first at communication from a messaging perspective, this is in two main forms, either text-chat or voice.
The image below shows some examples of test-chat avatar communication in virtual worlds (clockwise from top left: Webflock, Second Life, IMVU and Playstation Home).
All four of these virtual worlds primarily use text-based messaging between users. But, is test-based chat sufficient for Social Virtual Reality or is voice-chat needed?
Well, it depends on the market, i.e. the ages of the users. For younger markets, voice-chat can be easily abused by users who go on ‘swearing-sprees’.