Mixed Reality Dev Days–in Altspace VR

BronwenZ2020-05-22_01-26-30

The one positive to come from COVID is that many of the events that I would have been unable to attend (unless i wanted to spend my life travelling) are being held virtually this year. One I was excited to be able to goto was Mixed Reality Dev Days. What was even cooler, was they held the whole event in Altspace VR.

BronwenZ2020-05-22_02-48-28

I’d been to a number of events in the proceeding weeks and really struggled to stay “in” the conference. I don’t find the online video format particularly engaging. This has been by far the best event I’ve been to. The main reasons for me were:

Immersive nature

BronwenZ2020-05-22_08-59-53

In the headset especially you feel “at” the event. I do also find the desktop experience way more immersive than a video call. I can look around and feel like I’m in the same room as the other people. Having multiple ways to join was also really good. As it was set for US timezone I wasn’t very awake and when I’m not awake properly I find the headsets hurt my eyes. No worries – I can join on my laptop. Later in the event I can switch over to my headset. I also liked the ability to use my laptop and have side chats with my friends at the event in real time.

Spatial Sound

BronwenZ2020-05-22_03-14-48

When we were at the mingling areas the spatial sound really makes you feel like you’re at an event. In the distance you can hear the murmur of people talking as as you get closer you can hear what they’re saying. You will suddenly hear a voice you recognise and turn around to spot a friend.

Fireside Chat

BronwenZ2020-05-23_02-35-12

There was just something about this fireside chat session that made it feel like I was a kid sitting by the fire listening to the grownups chat. I really enjoyed the feel of this session.

Other things I liked:

  • There was decent breaks between sessions. There was at least half an hour between each session. This meant there was plenty of time to grab a cuppa or in my case have a power nap between sessions.
  • Hangout area – great for hallway conversation. I didn’t use this a lot due to overpowering need for sleep between session but when I did it was nice to have a place to hang out with people.

It wasn’t all perfect…

I’ll be honest and say there were technical issues: presenters would drop out, questions weren’t getting through but it was all livable and the team did a great job at putting it together really quickly.

What I’d love to see

There’s a few things I think could be improved to make the events better:

  1. Custom shirt/icon to identify conference staff. We do this for in-person events and it makes it easier to identify speakers, staff and just who to ask questions of. There’s not a way to do this for these events and if you don’t know what the person looks like it can be hard to identify the right person to talk to.
  2. Sharding by friends. As the event gets bigger, the rooms are replicated and I only really noticed this must have happened because I wasn’t in the ‘same’ room as my friends. I assume it’s by when you enter the room but it would be nice to group us together so when i look around I see friendly avatars.
  3. More variation in avatars. This event was big enough for me to notice the variation isn’t enough…so I couldn’t easily identify people I know. Edit: 20/6 – looks like this will be fixed very soon.