What is Vtime? Well, putting it simply, Vtime is a Sociable Network in Virtual Reality.
A place to connect with new people, and teleport to mind-blowingly cool places.
It is one of my favourite VR experiences.
And it is the closest to ‘real life’ social exchange you can have right now.
As such, I approached the Vtime team for an interview, and some quotes (see below) as to what we can expect.
It is hard to explain 3D in 2D words, but when the time comes I hope this guide helps.
Who is it for?
Anyone who wants to take a leap into how we will be communicating in the future.
What equipment will you need to use it?
You will need Samsung Gear VR (with compatible handset).
Or if you have a compatible device then you get hop in for early access for the Google Cardboard app here.
I asked the team, and they said they will be 'supporting all major headsets'.
Also worth noting that when using headsets that require a mobile phone to run, there will be a compatibility list that will be limited to newer smartphones, as you'll need processing power. Obviously the tethered headsets will either need a console or PC with the right specifications to run it.
Finally, in terms of specs - you will need headphones with a built-in microphone. At present, they do not support bluetooth headsets.
What’s it like?
Very cool. Very real.
For instance, when you move your headset, it will move the avatar’s head. But when you’ve entered a space and have other people there too, you can have directional sound - i.e. you will hear someone speaking to your left, and your attention will move there.
There are other very neat features too, including in a cold environment, like a cave or the Antarctic, you may well see your cold breath.
The destinations (think ‘Spaces’)
You’ll begin in ‘The Agora’.
This is me, on the left, having taken the picture using their new ‘Selfie’ feature.
And if you look around any of the destinations, you will see a lot is going on.
(I love the statues in the Agora, for instance)
But from there you can navigate to an ever growing number of Destinations.
Everything from the beach on Paradise Island:
And then to the Arctic Expedition, with a visiting polar bear (which I still haven't seen), and an Orca....
Or to The Orbital in space:
To name just a few places you may want to visit. The team says there are more coming in the pipeline.
How to navigate
The Vtime interface is highly intuitive. Really brilliant.
All you really need to know is this: tilt your head back to see a 'Silver Ball' appear.
Stay here for a few seconds and a full menu will appear, before letting you select your Avatar, see connections etc.
There is an option at the top that says ‘Random Match’, which is a good place for you to start.
Once you start connecting you’ll begin to have a list of connections you can access from the menu:
This is called 'Bubble View', but you can also choose list view by choosing the icon on the upper left, bring up this screen:
Note: you'll find that gazing for a couple of seconds is the usual way to select an option.
When you have friends for are online in Vtime you will be able to see their location.
Also, one cool thing you’ll find out, when someone who was the ‘host’ leaves, the next person who arrived in that location picks up the crown. What the others don’t know is that they also go back to the silver lined walls of the space aged industrial teleporter, and get to choose where they go next.
This is a nice ‘reset’ on the experience.
The experience, the culture
Know everyone using the platform is an early adopter, so it is all new to everyone.
As such, most people want to know a) your name, and b) when you come from.
The good news for new arrivals is that friendly guides like Will Hart have already emerged with the culture. They can give you some tips.
And as we know, for a sociable platform to succeed, it needs friendly people.
If people don’t have a good first experience they may well not return.
Vtime seems to be doing something right by letting the users build the community from the ground up.
Note: if you use your real name it may well be easier for people to find you on other social platforms. But many people are using pseudonyms (and we know that is ‘ok’, and necessary as an options.)
You’ll find out about new advances in the VR world if you listen to the people there - you are all geeks, exploring. You’ll get recommendations for new apps too.
And if you receive an invite to join someone, then usually they will be friendly.
This is how you meet new people.
Look to add a person as a friend once you’ve chatted for a while.
They will usually accept you.
(you may need to go back to the main menu to do this)
How to add someone as a friend in Vtime:
Look straight ahead, and tilt your head upwards 45 degrees to bring up the ‘silver ball’
Go to the menu, then to ‘Connections’ and see who you are ‘with’ and click on their profile to add as a friend.
The web interface:
You can manage your friends list here https://app.vtime.net/ and see who of your Facebook friends have arrived.
You’ll also see new friend requests here:
Finding friends via Facebook
This has to be the future right here.
Finding friends via Facebook will the easiest way for you to connect with people, but it will take time for them to arrive.
I mean, I have a load of geeky friends but when I clicked I still got this:
It’ll happen, especially once people can enter the spaces using Google Cardboard.
Virtual meetings are the most obvious application, but I know the Vtime team have plans to have larger events and meeting available.
In other words, we could be looking at hosting virtual conferences before long.
From their team: "I don’t want to give away a full list of possible applications, as it may give our competitors ideas! The opportunity here is endless, as soon as people use vTime their heads start spinning with all the possible use cases. Our users are already using it for dating, meetings, language practice and more. We’ve been approached by myriad companies who can all see how vTime would amplify their current offering, and give them new tools with which to connect to their audience."
In my view, Vtime will give you a quality VR experience with the ability to connect with people who have taken the leap as well.
What does the future hold?
With vTime, seeing is believing. You need to be in it to get it. In my experience, it’s a great way of understanding the true feeling of VR presence.
Paul Hollywood - Product Director.
And as you can probably tell, I've been exploring this territory for a few months now, and the Vtime team keep on adding new features that are keeping my attention.
As such, I asked Paul Hollywood for some extra insights, to which he replied... “To create that feeling of ‘being there’, we’ve used a number of techniques to make people suspend their disbelief; broad brushstrokes of spatial audio and head-rotation tracking, both built on top of stunning visual destinations. We then add extra layers, blending fine details of visual and audio effects, with interaction design always at the forefront of our process."
I must say, it is mellow but exciting at the same time. New, different. Or in Paul's words, "These subtle layers that vTime washes over you, plus the spoken words of another user, generate believable social presence that draws you into deeply connected human conversations."
vTime is a communication tool, the development of which will take us on a journey to many places in the future. In the next few weeks, they say users will be able to share images, videos and 360 media from their devices with others in vTime. They will be giving the community the ability to host events, and will open up the network to those without a VR headset with the forthcoming Spectate Mode. This is going to really increase the user base. So don't worry, if you haven't tried it yet you will soon be able to understand this all for yourself, and remember that tip about finding a selfie camera in the Avatar menu - you'll love that as it is perfect content for Social Media too.
Finally, want to meet with other friendly people? Check out this Google+ Community here, run by Jens Graikowski.