I was out of town last week for a few days, hiking the Appalachian Trail, sleeping outside in 34-degree weather, roughing it. Sometimes, when I came to an especially breathtaking bit of scenery, frightening rapids that I had to cross or an especially daunting rocky incline to to scurry up, I would muse: Imagine how cool all this would be in VR. (That is, if I’m not already living in a simulation.)
I know that may sound sad, but VR is getting better all the time, and what’s wrong with wanting to hike through Daisy’s Shaw’s “Solitude” world?
Mostly I didn’t miss my headset while I was out in the wild, but being reunited with my favorite gadget was nice.
Here’s what’s happening in VR this week.
— Steven S. Drachman
Where to Live
Always Open, in the Multiverse App, free to visit, costs some crypto to move in
There has been a certain amount of speculation about a future in which people will actually live and work in VR.
Virtual offices will allow us to interact, face to face, in person (so to speak) with our work colleagues regardless of where our organic bodies dwell. You can already spend time in a spacious VR house and watch TV in your home theater, with your spouse (or their avatar) by your side. Before too long, technology will make VR indistinguishable from actual-reality (only much better!), with perfect-fidelity avatars and devices that can replicate smell and touch (and sex), and machines in which your body will stand, sit and lie, creating the illusion that you are walking and otherwise existing in a real physical space within your virtual world.
Where will you choose to reside? There is a company of developers working on a prototype. In the Infiniverse section of the Multiverse app, you can pick the neighborhood in which you wish to live (you can even create your own neighborhood), buy and sell apartments in the various high-rises, invite your friends over to your apartment and even open a business in the district of your choice.
Eugene Arencibia, who founded the Mental Health District in the Infiniverse, and its store, Healthy Mental Me, raves about the growing Infiniverse community.
“At first I found that it was cool,” says Arencibia, “being able to freely roam about the city, then to be able to purchase an apartment. Along the way I met some real good people, they were all very helpful, kind and great to talk to that soon they became friends. Building the Mental Health District we really made an impact where people can come and share their stories, and those people became friends. The community has grown, we had a couple of events that really went well and a great turnout.”
The centerpiece of the Multiverse community is the Planetarium, a terrific science museum that we’ve written about before, but there is also a recreation of Rome’s Coliseum, a business park, maze games and local art museums.
There was recently a well-publicized comedy club performance, periodic dance clubs and even an arts festival, with an awards ceremony to be held this Sunday at 1 pm E.T. There are also frequent “Grand Openings” for new businesses. You can peruse event listings here.
While some early subscribers have complained about a lack of consistent nightlife and other entertainment, the pace of activity is picking up, and fans praise both the neighborliness of the community and the potential for future growth. A cool experiment worth watching, and visiting.
Party of the Week
Saturday, April 30, 2022 from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM (EST), AltspaceVR, free
The “Hide and Seek” events sponsored by VR Forward have become some of the more popular events in Altspace, and it’s not hard to see why. VR Forward (run by a team of ten, including Oswin, Arabella, MoiraRose, Brenton, Honey Jinsang, MoonHunter, Nicole, TrippyHippie, AngelHeart and Jano Vocalman) chooses dynamic, generally prefabricated worlds that are perfect for your favorite childhood game, and sets you loose.
They’ve located prior Hide and Seek events in a science fiction city and an expansive amusement park (where the rides really worked), and this Saturday’s Fantasy Village game promises a great evening of childlike fun.
The founding VR Forward members all met at AltspaceVR events.
“After months of running into each other in the same hang out spots, dance clubs, beautiful virtual beaches,” MoiraRose says, and musing to each other, “‘oh I wish someone would do xyz,’ we realized that between us we had some pretty capable skills. So for just over a year now we have been VR Forward.”
VR Forward also sponsors Crime Time, a true crime talk show, King of Comedy, a comedy game show show, Let’s Play it By Ear, a “name that tune”-style game show, among other regular events. They’ve organized full concerts, a Carnival of Curiosities, Yule Ball and St. Patrick’s Day bash. What really made their name was a prom that they sponsored in 2021, which garnered almost 1200 joins, and which recreated your high school prom down to the most specific detail, such as streamers, French art from the Louvre, palm trees, disco balls, a photo booth, and line dances, as well as a vote for Prom King and Queen.
And they’re doing it again in 2022! This year’s prom promises an undersea theme.
We can’t wait.
What to Watch!
Lustration: Part 1 (Gallus) and Part 2 (Pine)
VR Animation Viewer, free
To see how to get VR dramatizations wrong, wander over to It: Float; while the 360-degree 3D effects are great in this Stephen King inspired short VR film, all you can do is look around. If you walk forward, the scene bends and moves.
By contrast, the best VR effects are immersive. You are there, and you can literally walk into the movie. How you watch is up to you.
The technical state-of-the-art for this kind of thing remains Gianpaolo Gonzalez’s NightMara, a Looney-Toon of a horror comic, which allows the VR viewer to wander through cartoon landscapes at their own whim.
Lustration, written and directed by Ryan Griffen, from his graphic novel, is a realistically drawn animation, in a noirish style that reflects the source material’s art by James Brouwer. It tells the story of the “In-Between,” a world between life and death; two agents of the hereafter, Bardolph and Gallus, who face a reckoning; two cops investigating the murder of a conspiracy theorist; and the elusive ways that their worlds are set to collide.
You can sit and watch the story unfold from the comfort of your armchair, like good old-fashioned TV; you can wander around the VR “set,” if your physical space is big enough; you can toggle between several different camera angles within the app; or, most intriguingly, you can even flip a switch to watch the same scene unfold in the world of the living or from the viewpoint of the ghosts.
An eerie, immersive and chilling experience, which rewards repeated viewings.
Episode 3 coming soon!
Audere Magazine regularly publishes articles about technology and VR. Read more here.
Top image shows an Infiniverse neighborhood.