Social is a lot more than simple chat in VR

Expanding on the previous topic we discussed recently chaos within chat rooms in VR — we wanted to explore exactly how the social aspect of a virtual reality platform can evolve into something much more intimate than simply peer to peer online voice chat functionality with fancy animations.

What’s going to be interesting as sensors continue to become more accurate and hardware and software capabilities increase, is how new platforms will be able to pick up on the subtle nuances of human interaction and make use of that data to enrich long-distance communications.

Much of communication happens on a non-verbal level, which can be easily missed when, for example, messaging via text or even through voice chat. Communicating with no physical cues or body language to interpret can be difficult; many people don’t enjoy speaking over the phone because they can’t tell “when it’s their turn.” It is also demonstrably less effective in getting finer points across in the flow of conversation and serves essentially to hinder communication between each party and even work against the brain’s natural method for forming memories.

VR platforms have the opportunity to take advantage of motion tracking data to make interactions feel more natural. This can be expressed as an ability to humanize aspects of VR using what we know about how people communicate, through transposing captured facial gestures and body language onto the avatar in real time for example.

That’s not to say that VR is going to be capturing all of the intricacies of real-world communication hidden in a person’s micro-expressions any time soon, but certainly, there is experimentation towards these areas which will later form the basis of new methods and systems to bolster user interaction. Apple, for example, has made incredible progress with facial and eye tracking for their Animoji system present in the iPhone X, and we will likely see Apple utilize this tech to drive engagement within a shared, social augmented reality platform in the near future.

Another key point in enabling memorable and emotionally engaging interactions between people — specifically in settings where subtle cues can easily be missed, is context. By presenting people with shared goals, they are more likely to strike a conversation with one another through the fundamental need for cooperation. This is certainly true of any activity where time is invested, but in specifically a VR setting like VU, this can manifest as a community of like-minded individuals who are both incentivized to cooperate and empowered to experience much more memorable and emotionally engaging interactions with the people they meet online.

Ciaran Foley is CEO of Ukledo and Immersive Entertainment, Inc. a Southern California virtual reality software company developing a new virtual engagement platform called Virtual Universe (VU).


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