This past week, I attended my first virtual reality (VR) conference. When I first saw the conference advertised months ago, I was intrigued. The ads mentioned attending as an avatar and walking around a campus. All this while attending sessions from world-class speakers and professionals. The low cost was another selling feature. Attending an in-person conferences is more expensive because of travel, lodging, and food. This was not an issue with a virtual conference.
After some initial mishaps installing the right app, I was in! Luckily customer support called me to guide me through the process. Even more astonishing, the customer support rep “met” me in the virtual world to show me around. Once I entered the world, my first stop was the avatar “dressing room” to create my avatar.
I had fun scrolling through the different options and palettes for things like skin tone, hair, accessories, clothing, shoes, etc. The right side of the screen featured a die. Once selected, it generated a randomly-created avatar based on available options. I tried this a few times before deciding it was too funky for me, even in a VR world.
The avatar dressing room had options for gender (m/f), hats, hair styles, eyes, eyeshadow, glasses, lips, ears, face shape, shirt, jacket, accessories, pants, and shoes. Each option offered approximately 5-10 different styles, in a range of available colors. See left-side panel.
Once in the dressing room, I faced my first VR dilemma. Should I be me? Or should I take advantage of the fun features and create someone totally different? I went for a hybrid approach, blending some of my own style with that of my avatar. For example, I picked a short, funky hairstyle that I would never get for myself. I discovered later it was actually a bun, so not that different. My avatar is wearing glasses, which I don’t wear. And on day 1, I dressed my avatar in yellow, a color I never wear. It was a professional conference, after all, so I didn’t want to look too different from myself.
After creating the avatar, the next step was learning how to move around in the campus. Keyboard commands were available for things like waving, clapping, shaking hands, acting impatient or confused, and dancing. My avatar could sit, stand, run, kick a ball and drive a motorboat.
Stay tuned next week for insights on attending the conference.