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