25 February 2021

Introducing Daden Hub - Daden's new virtual home in Mozilla Hubs

 


We've just launched Daden Hub - Daden's virtual home in Mozilla Hubs. 

This 3D environment lets you find out about Daden and what we do, play with some of the Mozilla Hubs tools, and follow teleports to some of our other builds in Mozilla Hubs. 

We are increasingly using it instead of Zoom for some of our internal meetings, and don't be surprised if we invite you into it for external meetings too!

You can visit Daden Hub now in 2D or VR at https://hubs.mozilla.com/SJy5Hwn/daden-hub

Here's a short video giving you a tour of the Hub.



Give us a shout if you'd like to meet up in the space and get a more personal demo!





19 February 2021

A Tale of Two Venues - AI/SF and Wrestling in VR!

 


Last night I attended a fascinating discussion on put on Science Fiction, Tech, and Games by GamesBeat/VentureBeat. It touched on loads of topics of interest like AI, Virtual Sentience, Digital Immortality and whether NPCs should have free will (shades of a recent Richard Bartle talk). What matters for this post though is that although the event was streamed on Zoom I attended it in the beta of Oculus Venues in VR.

I went to the Oculus Quest2 launch event in an earlier Beta, and it was OK but very basic, just move your avatar to a row of cinema seats and sit there. So what has changed?

You start with an avatar design session in your own room (not much choice of anything, but just enough to minimise identikit avatars), and then some very basic movement and interaction instruction. There is a very nice menu UI on your inside wrist which opens up to give you access to the main tools. You can navigate either by a local teleport method (move a circle to where you want to go) or free physical/joystick-based movement.

When you leave the room and new space loads and you enter the Venues atrium.


There's space for I think about 8 "suites", 4 down each side. I don't know how shared this is. My venue had the poster outside and declared  38 attendees.


Entering the suite another space loads. I say "suite" as there is a ground level space and a balcony space, both looking out to a big 2D screen where the Zoom relay was - 3 talking head webcams.

Now as an event experience it was pretty poor. The difference between the 3D/avatar us a 2D/video them is big. I know you might pick up less nuances if they were avatars but at least it would feel more like a seminar than a cinema. And if you were on Zoom you could ask questions by chat, but there was no chat facility in VR (and without a Bluetooth keyboard typing questions would be a pain). Also the lack of chat meant that there was no side channel between the attending avatars - amplifying points, sharing links, getting to know each other. If someone tried to talk to you it just got in the way of the presentation - just as in the physical world. I know I keep saying it but c.2010 Second Life events felt far better.

Unfortunately the Venues screenshot camera doesn't show the video content!

The other big issue were my co-attendees. I know I'm the only person on the ground level who was there from beginning to end. Maybe a handful of others were there for 20mins plus. I'd say peak occupancy was a dozen, more often half that. Most of the people though were there to play and have fun, several were kids (mics on whole time, talking over the presenters etc), and were just having a laugh. Imaging trying to attend a seminar whilst a group of tweens charges through. Luckily at least one group decided to "take the party upstairs" and when I checked in at the end the balcony certainly seemed busier - but that was after the talk finished.

So not convinced.

On my way out I decided to check out the other suites. Only one was in use with 24hr Wrestling. Same layout. But a couple of big differences.

First, the video was 360 style, in fact I think it was even stereoscopic, so it really did feel like you were ringside watching the fight. It filled the whole of the space in front of you, and had a real sense of depth.

Second, as there was no commentary as such, it was just the fight, all the avatars chatting, shouting and fooling around with the cameras and confetti was all appropriate for the event - everyone was ringside!

The Wrestling crowd - not that you can tell with no video!


So I hadn't expected that a Wrestling event would beat an SF/Tech/Games event as a good demo of using VR for events - but it did. Just goes you need to think about the complete experience when looking at how to use VR (and immersive 3D) for different kinds of events.






18 February 2021

NASA's Perseverance Rover in Mozilla Hubs

 


What better way to celebrate the (hopefully successful) landing of NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars than by looking at it in Mozilla Hubs!

NASA wonderful model library at https://nasa3d.arc.nasa.gov/ not only has a nice model of Perseverance but its also a) a reasonable size and b) in the .glb format preferred by WebXR apps likeHubs - this is great news if NASA is now standardising on this format. The model is about 4x the recommended Hub size, so mobiles may have issues, but it loads in 20s or so.

As this is a quick build we've just dropped the model into our existing "mars-like" terrain. We checked it for scale and it looks pretty much spot on. We've not added any interpretation boards - we may do that later. 

If you're in VR then you can have great fun getting on your hands and knees to look under the rover - although we couldn't spot Ingenuity.

The model is at: https://hubs.mozilla.com/o3c26nJ/perseverance-mars-rover with a room code of 817861 if you're using a headset.

Remember that since this is WebXR you can just click immediately on the link above to go to Mars in your browser, no need to download or register, and it works with or without a VR headset.

Have fun, and do let us know how you get on in the comments and/or post images on Social Media and share with friends.

And don't forget to also check out our SpaceX Starship Hub room to look at the next generation of Mars spacecraft. That's at https://hubs.mozilla.com/SMUKcDy/starship-test

Update: Here's a video of the rover from inside our VR headset:



16 February 2021

Virtual Humans interview on the 1202 Podcast



Daden MD David Burden is interviewed on the 1202 Human Factors podcast about our work on Virtual Humans. You can read more about the podcast and listed to it at:

https://www.barrykirby.co.uk/virtual-humans-should-we-be-concerned-an-interview-with-david-burden/


12 February 2021

SpaceX Starship in MozillaHubs

 


MozillaHubs is designed to be a relatively low-poly environment so as to have speedy downloads and to work on mobile devices and standalone VR headsets.

Having been quiet pleased with the size of terrain mesh we could bring into MozillaHub we decided to try and use a more substantial 3D model - in this case of Elon Musk's SpaceX's Starship spacecraft. The model is by MartianDays on Sketchfab, and whilst not the highest rez (we were trying to avoid that!) it does look pretty good. For the record it's 20,600 triangles, which compares to 1.2 million (!) for a hi-rez model.

Again we're quite impressed at how well its come in. Load times are pretty variable from 30s to 1 minute, sometimes 2 minutes, but it displays very smoothly once you're in there. And with a VR headset on, looking all the way up to the top you get a real sense of the scale of the thing. We've lifted it off the ground so you can walk underneath to see the Raptor engine bells.

If you want to take a look - in a browser or in VR -  go  to:

https://hubs.mozilla.com/SMUKcDy/starship-test

The hub.link code is 416509 for easier access in VR.





10 February 2021

Introducing VEDS - A Mozilla Hubs based Virtual Experience Design Space

 


On the basis of practice-what-you-preach we've created a prototype Virtual Experience Design Space (VEDS) in Mozilla Hubs and opened it up to public use. The space takes a number of design tools that we've used for many years, and which we already have within our Daden Campus space in Trainingscapes but makes them available to anyone with a browser (including mobile) and any WebXR capable VR headset (such as Oculus Quest). Of course the nice thing about WebXR (and so Hubs) is that everything runs in the browser so there is no software to download - even on the VR headset.

Here's a video walkthrough of the VR experience.


Within the space we have four different 3D immersive experience design tools:

  • A dichotomies space, where you can  rank different features (such as linear/freeform or synchronous/asynchronous) against a variety of of different design factors (such as cost, importance, time, risk).
  • Sara de Freitas's 4D framework for vLearning design
  • Bob Stone's 3 Fidelities model
  • Bybee's 5E eLearning design model 
Each is represented by a suitable floor graphic and then how you use them is up to you. There are labelled boxes for the dichotomies space - but you can use them anywhere. There are also a set of markers, so you can get people to "vote" by placing markers (or even their avatar) where they think the most importance/biggest issue/biggest risk is. It's all about using VEDS as a social, collaborative space to do immersive 3D and VR design.

We've linked out in the world to our white paper on the subject for more background on the tools, and you can even browse this in-world (at least from a 2D device, can't get it to work in VR yet!).

Of course Hubs has its own set of generic collaboration tools to use in-world and you're free to make use of those too, we've provided a media frame and a couple of whiteboards to draw on, and you can rez any of their standard objects - why not mark choices with cheeseburgers!

Here's a couple more images of the space:






What to give it a try? Just point your 2D or VR browser to:


The hub.link code is 149638 for easier access from VR.

No sign up is necessary, but remember that if you use our room, rather than spawning your own, then you may well meet other users (including us) in there. We're setting the room to "Remix allowed" so you can also create your own version of it - do let us know if do!

If there's interest we might even see about holding some live events in there to talk about the tools in more detail.

We'd love to hear what you think of VEDS - just drop us a line in the comments, or email us at info@daden.co.uk if your organisation could do with a similar space structured around the tools you use.



8 February 2021

Social Virtual Worlds/Social VR



The last couple of years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of social virtual worlds around. We define such platforms as internet based 3D environments which are open to general use, are multi-user (so you can see and talk to other people) and within which users are able to create their own spaces. The worlds are typically accessible by both a flat screen (PC/Mac, and sometimes mobile/tablet) and through a VR headset.

At Daden we’ve been using these sorts of environments since the early 2000s. What is really beginning to change the game now is the emergence of WebXR social virtual worlds. These are completely web-delivered, so you only need your browser to access them (from PC, mobile and even VR headset), so there is no download, minimal differences between platforms and really easy access. They are emerging as a great way to get people off of Zoom and into somewhere more engaging for whatever social or collaborative task you need to do. The key examples at the moment are probably Mozilla Hubs and Framevr.io.

Below we highlight some of the key affordances, benefits and uses of these WebXR Social Virtual Worlds.

  • Fully 3D, multi-user, avatar based, with full freedom of exploration​
  • In-world audio (often spatial) and text chat
  • Runs without any download – and even on locked down desktops
  • Graphics optimised for lower bandwidths and less powerful devices
  • Out-the-box  set of collaboration tools, eg*: screen-share, document-share, whiteboard, shared web browser (*depends on world)
  • Free access model for low usage, many also open source
  • Developer ability (us) to build custom environments
  • Limited scripting ability at the moment
  • Give meetings more of a sense of “space” than video calls
  • Use environment and movement to help anchor the sessions and learning in memory
  • Help train what you can’t usually teach in the classroom
  • Excite and engage students and employees

We're also working up an analysis summary tool to describe the capabilities of social virtual worlds (and similar spaces), and a comparison between them - watch this space and read the earlier blog post.

If you'd like to know more about business and educational use of Social Virtual Worlds and their underlying technologies then do get in touch and we can arrange a chat and live demo. We'll also be posting some live spaces here shortly, and you can also read about (and see some demos of) the the WebXR technology that underlies these worlds on our WebXR page.