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18 Years History Of Virtual Worlds; Second Life, vTime, OVR And Facebook Metaverse - Horizon

Facebook is creating an immersive environment called Horizon to transform Facebook from a social media network into a “metaverse company” in the next five years.

A metaverse is an online world where people can game, work and communicate in a virtual environment, often using VR headsets.

The Facebook CEO described it as “an embodied internet where instead of just viewing content - you are in it”.

Facebook is also working on an “infinite office” that lets users create their ideal workplace through VR.
“In the future, instead of just doing this over a phone call, you’ll be able to sit as a hologram on my couch, or I’ll be able to sit as a hologram on your couch, and it’ll actually feel like we’re in the same place, even if we’re in different states or hundreds of miles apart,” he said. “I think that is really powerful.”

Zuckerberg's ideas are not really new and creating your virtual office in a virtual world is nothing new either.  

If you were born in the 70s or 80s you may remember Second Life.

Second Life is a virtual, online world where users create avatars that can travel to worlds and lands (called Sims), participate in role-playing games, get jobs and earn money, create their own land, houses and much more using their programming language, create and sell products, and socialize with other Second Life residents. The best of all, you could fly. And this was one of the most attractive functions.

Credit: SecondLife.com

I used to use it to meet new people and also my real-life friends, who lived in other countries. We'd meet on exotic beaches and go for dinner and drinking inside Second Life. We used to talk about RL (Real life) and SL, but many just never wanted to mention RL so you could be anonymous as long as you wanted or forever to the people you met.

I created my own house by coding, which they taught you to do, not like Minecraft but proper programing. I even had a job where I earned money that I could use to buy clothes, food, etc.

Credit: SecondLife.com

You'd be forgiven if you thought Second Life had met the same fate as other lost sites from the early aughts. Linden Lab, the 2003 creator of the multiplayer world, declined to give me current numbers, but in 2013 Second Life reported more than one million monthly users. More recent numbers from 2018 show that number has dropped significantly, to around half a million active monthly users.

When it first arrived, most users of Second Life agreed that we were not ready for it. The graphics were too high resolution for the internet speeds available at that time. Even now, for some users with limited broadband speeds, it can be very slow and frustrating.

Credit: SecondLife.com

In 2018, it was surprisingly piquing enough interest to (somewhat curiously) add nearly 350,000 new registrations monthly: people looking to make friends, or maybe just to troll. Maybe they joined because their first life is so great, they want a second one (à la Dwight from The Office). I spoke to a few Second Lifers, like Meri, who continue to spend an hour or two of their day running around the virtual world, in search of the enigma that keeps Second Life pulsing.

Facebook's Metaverse Horizon will be a mix of social places where users can mingle and chat, and other areas where they can play games against each other.
People will inhabit and explore the virtual spaces via a cartoon avatar.

Facebook said anyone using Horizon would be able to call on human "guides" to help them navigate and become more familiar with the virtual environment.

It will also have options that let people shape and build their own part of the environment. They will also be able to design their own avatars.

As you can see the entire space has been given a cartoon-like feel as it is intended to be used on Facebook's Oculus Quest headset, which does not have the high-resolution graphics of PC-linked headsets.

Credit: Facebook

For someone from my generation, it is hard to believe that almost 20 years after Second Life launched, Facebook cannot create an environment that is more or even similarly realistic. Although like Horizon, SL uses avatars, it was truly like a virtual second world, where you could be whatever you wanted to be, either as you are or a completely different version of yourself.

The secret of Second Life was not just how realistic it was, but you had pretty much everything the real world has; a place to live, a job, you could go to study real courses with real people virtually, study languages, programming, yoga, cooking or even create your own courses and teach people in SL.

Approximately in 2004, both the corporate world and academia started to recognise the business value of virtual worlds for training and education, collaboration, and marketing. Development and maturity of the most popular virtual world - Second Life - played a significant role in the corporate movement towards virtual worlds

IBM and Cisco were both heavy users of virtual worlds, and specifically Second Life. IBM, in particular, has been a real innovation leader, using Second Life aggressively since 2008.

Both SL and Horizon are virtual versions of our realities but what about a cross-reality version, what about mixing RL, VR and AR(Augmented Reality) all in one place. If you have not heard of it yet, it is called vTime.

vTime  is a free virtual reality and augmented reality social network created in 2015 by British virtual and augmented reality innovation company vTime Limited, developed in Liverpool in the UK. It allows users to meet, chat, and share with people around the world, today becomes vTime XR - the world’s first cross-reality (XR) social experience - as it adds the ability to connect with friends through augmented reality (AR).

Credit: vTime.net

vTime looks even more realistic than SecondLife and you can use it with your phone, not just a desktop or laptop.

vTime said to TechCrunch - “Our horizon is set very differently to what Facebook is probably thinking about,” said Wangerin. “I think there’s plenty of green space for us to follow our own path.”

For the first time, users will be able to meet with others in a shared virtual space by using VR headsets or handheld smartphone AR. Cross-platform and now cross-reality, vTime XR offers freedom of choice for both device and type of immersive experience through the option of AR, VR or 2D magic window mode. While VR users will be fully immersed in one of vTime XR’s detailed destinations, AR users will join in by placing a live 360-degree diorama of the destination on any real-world, flat surface. 

AR users can easily interact with others, change and scale their view of the destination, as well as having full access to vTime features such as avatar customization, image sharing, private messaging, and more.

vTime is available for Android, iPhone, Google DayDream, Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR and Facebook Oculus Rift.

vTime has been of great help in times of pandemic

They are enabling vital work with vulnerable children during the Pandemic

"We’ve licensed our technology for private use to allow vital social care work with vulnerable children in the UK to continue during the lockdown. Working with The Cornerstone Partnership - a social enterprise, part of the Antser group, focused on improving the lives of children and families touched by the care system – we’ve created a closed, safe space for local authorities across the UK to continue their critical work with children and adults throughout the pandemic." 

And what about  OVR.ai?

OVR is a digital layer covering the entire globe. It's composed of 1.6 trillion unique hexagons called OVRLands. Lands can be purchased from the system with an auction and then traded or rented in a decentralised fashion.

Credit: steamapp.net

OVR is a platform for geolocalized AR and VR experiences based on the Ethereum blockchain. OVR allows for creating hosting and visualizing on mobile geo-located AR and VR contents.

All these virtual worlds are becoming more and more popular while organisations and groups of people around the world are promoting the need for a digital detox.

Where are we going as humans? To a more balanced world, where we are more aware of the pros and cons of technology, or to a world where we do everything virtually through these virtual worlds that are trying to capture the essence of life, a virtual world where we can experience a completely different life if we choose to and be someone else if we want, be the one we always wished we were or the one we believe we could never be.
What about mental health, how do these virtual worlds affect it. We can only wait and see.

Mili Ponce

Former Computer Engineer, Tech, EdTech and eCommerce Entrepreneur, Keynote Speaker on Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Social Media Strategist, eCommerce Business Mentor, Trainer, Writer, Blogger, Mother, Daughter, Dreamer.

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18 Years History Of Virtual Worlds; Second Life, vTime, OVR And Facebook Metaverse - Horizon Reviewed by Mili Ponce on Saturday, July 24, 2021 Rating: 5

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