The Merits of Attending a VR Conference

In last week’s post, I described my experience of creating my conference-attending avatar. Once created, and once I figured out the keyboard commands, it was time to explore. Here are a few of my thoughts about the experience.

The “campus” was beautiful. It included a lighthouse lookout point, speed boat rides, tables and chairs for “private” conversation areas, conference rooms, and a very realistic expo hall. Even things like background sounds were provided. On the beach I could hear birds chirping, the soft shushing motion of the waves, and a gentle breeze blowing. For someone who’s barely left my neighborhood since the pandemic started, this felt really special.

My avatar on Day 1 in front of the beach view.

At the sessions we could sit, or stand. Though it didn’t matter since I could zoom in the presentation. I often did this because just like in the real world when someone tall sits in front of you, the name of the avatars near me were floating above their heads obstructing my view. Still, more fun than uploading endless zoom presentations.

A “go to” with a list of all the different places on the campus made it easy to get around. The regular style presentations were fine to attend. However, I didn’t enjoy the panel discussions as much. Without watching actual people engage and exhibit some body language, I didn’t find them appealing. It was odd listening to people speak animatedly, combined with a motionless avatar on the stage.

I did try to converse with a few avatars. Again, because body language was lacking, it was difficult to join in a conversation. I managed a few conversations, but there were technical challenges. Since I didn’t have headphones in, it was causing feedback on the other end. When I put in my headphones, I could hear, but nobody could hear me. “Private” zones helped because then I could just hear the person I was speaking to.

My avatar on the beach in front of a “private” conversation area, the ring in blue behind.

On day 2 I figured out how to take a ride on the speedboat. At the last minute, two other avatars jumped in with me. One of them started driving. They popped out at the end without a word. I couldn’t decide if that was creepy, weird, or something to be expected in the VR world.

All in all, a fun, new experience. Though I’ve learned I’m definitely not ready for the meta-verse yet.

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