Bigscreen, bringing collaboration to VR

Today our investment in Bigscreen was announced. We’re incredibly thrilled to work with Darshan, Bigscreen’s CEO, and the rest of the Bigscreen team as they build out the future of collaboration using VR.

I originally met Darshan over a year ago before he even had named his VR project. With some convincing, he offered to demo in VR what he currently had. After spending a few minutes in the app, the quality of the experience was obvious and his vision of simple collaboration in VR made a ton of sense. In a moment of dog-fooding, we came to an agreement to invest while in VR and closed it shortly after without meeting again in-person.

Social VR has been long regarded as the “killer-app” of VR. Facebook has been investing heavily in this area and it’s likely the main reason for their acquisition of Oculus.

Social VR, however, is still nascent because the number of people with VR headsets is still limited and it’s unlikely you will be able to experience VR with your real friends.

Additionally, the burden of putting on a VR headset is usually too high for even enthusiasts to bother with. Humans will by default seek out the path of least resistance to communicate. Why would I put on a VR headset, walk an avatar over to you, wait for you to do the same, just to have a conversation we could have had using existing mediums? You need a reason to use VR instead of texting or calling someone.

Given the above, even if you have the most engaging social application in the world, anything that requires your friends to log-on at the same time will have low retention rates because so few people currently have VR headsets and it’s a lot of work to put them on.

There are 2 ways of side-stepping these problems:

  1. Design an application that’s engaging and useful even by yourself and is 10x better than a non-VR application
  2. Design an application that’s engaging with strangers and reduce the friction of getting in and out of social experiences

Bigscreen does both of these things.

By bringing your existing PC into VR, Bigscreen offers content and you already find compelling in a form-factor that is much better than using physical monitors. Many people are using Bigscreen to watch movies in a theater, code on multiple virtual monitors, and play games using their existing PCs. These activities are engaging without ever interacting with anyone else. As VR hardware and resolution improves, this experience will only get better.

Second, Bigscreen makes it easy to bring other people into your experiences. While having a larger burden of entry, Social VR offers higher fidelity communication than texting or calling because you can use body language and see where people’s attention (gaze) is. This is highlighted when you’re collaborating over shared content such as source code or a scrum board. It’s also magical when you have split-screen gaming experiences reminiscent of console gaming on a couch with friends.

The best social applications have come out of taking behavior we already exhibit offline and digitizing them.

By focusing on multiple platforms and providing super simple ways of sharing experiences with others, Bigscreen is great at bringing communities of strangers together around shared interests. In some cases these communities wouldn’t have been able to come together at all. For example, hosting virtual LAN parties is easy in Bigscreen and communities frequently gather to play their favorite games in VR together. This same activity (hosting LAN parties) in the real world is a massive logistical undertaking and often requires shipping PCs across the country.

As Darshan noted in his blog post, they are just getting started and we’re excited to see how Bigscreen expands the possibilities of interacting with others in a way that convinces you to put on a VR headset instead of picking up your phone.