Free idea: An open Social VR API

Before we get to Social VR, let’s recap. It’s 2017, almost 2018, and Virtual Reality systems are selling better than ever. The variety of VR hardware is stunning, with prices ranging from a simple $10 “cardboard” system to multi-thousand dollar haptic VR rigs with 360 degree rotation.

The individual titles available are getting more immersive and users are spending hours, hundreds of hours, with HMDs engaged. Game titles like VRChat, Rec Room, and OrbusVR are taking off. Their common theme? They’re Social VR.

Each of the major players in the space have some form of home (or house) as their default location when you dawn the gear. All of them act as launchers for other experiences and applications. Steam VR launches and interacts with the Steam platform, Oculus Home/Dash interact with the Oculus ecosystem, and Microsoft and Sony have their own. Oculus Dash 2 is a step in the right direction, and even has some elements of Ready Player One. But what happens with Vive or Windows Mixed Reality users?

Facebook took a remarkable step last week by opening the once Rift exclusive Facebook Spaces to Vive users. Of course anyone could use it with Revive, but this is official support. It’s a recognition that the combined market is a much larger opportunity. But I digress.

One thing they all have in common is that these core launchers are not social in any way. I can’t invite you to hang out in my Cliff House, then jump into a game of Rec Room together and return the house upon exit. None of them work this way. Why? More importantly, why should they be?

Let’s liberate Social VR and make it open source and cross platform. Not just OS, but dev environment too. Maybe OpenSVR?

What if we could build an open API for Unity, Unreal, and WebXR that remembers the state of a user’s VR experience? As the user exits, this object would collect data about that specific point in time then save a 360 degree “live” image (like Apple’s iOS) of the exit point. It could track play/use over time and dozens of data points that could come in handy.

The 360 degree image captured at the time of exit could wrap the inner sphere of a teleportation portal. We’ve seen a form of this with 360 degree videos in Facebook Spaces. To play the game again, tap the sphere in High Fidelity or your preferred open Social VR platform. To play with friends, have them tap the same sphere, anywhere in the metaverse.

This sounds way harder than it is. This is a layer that gets built into the developer’s tools of choice. Similar things exist for iOS (Game Center) and Android, and Microsoft has the XBOX platform. What I’m proposing is 100% open source.

As we move toward work in VR, shared experiences with friends and colleagues will be transformative to human relationships. This is an important step.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!

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Husband, father, epic adventurer, perpetually curious, rule breaker, startup guy, innovator, maker.

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