There's little doubt that one of the most promising futures of virtual reality is what's known as social VR, or rich, immersive, multi-user environments.
Facebook knows that, which is why it has started an entire social VR team, the goal of which is manifesting that vision. But it's going to be awhile before we get there.
HelloVR, a Berkeley, California startup, thinks that we're there already. Today, it unveiled an early version of MetaWorld, a social VR environment powered by what's known as SpatialOS, from its partner, the Andreessen Horowitz-backed tech company Improbable.
In its early stages, MetaWorld shows the promise of social VR, albeit in a nascent state with rudimentary graphics. In a demo last week, I interacted with another avatar, played a game of chess, walked around an animated world, and was able to have a voice chat with another person. HelloVR says this is just the beginning, and that MetaWorld should be able to host large numbers of people doing a wide variety of things. It's not there yet, but that day is coming.
We've seen what multi-user experiences in VR can be like. Oculus' Toybox is one of the most impressive demos I've ever seen, and it is far more polished than MetaWorld. But Toybox is meant for two people, whereas what HelloVR has built in conjunction with Improbable, could one day bring rich VR to substantial numbers of people. We'll see if the company can truly deliver. DT