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By Bobby Carlton

When it comes to creating that perfect balance of realism and cartoony avatars that can be used across multiple VR platforms, Ready Player Me is the leader. Very easy to make and only takes minutes, a Ready Player Me avatar can be personalized with clothing, fashion accessories, and even outfits from popular movies, and that could be a big deal for Enterprise adoption.

Last week, the company announced that they raised $56M led by a16z to help grow their business and give people the ability to connect people to the metaverse in a more meaningful way. This is obviously a huge leap for pushing avatar technology, but it also means a big step for the metaverse as more people and companies explore the potential of these virtual worlds.

Creating your own 3D avatar is incredibly simple. Absolutely no coding skills are needed to create one which you can then import into platforms such as Spatial,  Mozilla Hubs, VRChat, and others with ease by copying and pasting a generated code made by the software.

You may think that avatars are something you would only use in socialVR platforms or in games, but there is a big push to bring this type of virtual representation into work environments. Ready Player Me has already positioned themselves into Enterprise solutions by lining themselves up with dozens of partners to use their avatar technology for corporate training, team building, and even having avatar creation being part of the onboarding steps for new employees.

As companies establish their digital twins in platforms like Mozilla Hubs, MeetinVR, Glue, Virbela, and others, avatars are how we represent ourselves as employees in VR, and it helps create a diverse workforce in both the real world and in the metaverse. Employees expect inclusion, culture, and heritage to be things that are represented at work.

Last year saw 24 companies adopting Ready Player Me avatars for employee representation in the metaverse, and with this new round of fundraising, the company looks to push that number even higher. 

FS Studio VR Hub
Image from FS Studio

Timmu Tõke, CEO of Ready Player Me believes that being able to represent your individual heritage in the metaverse, whether it’s for meeting up with friends for a concert or being part of a client meeting is important for all of us.

The thought is that your skin tone, your hair, the shape of your eyes, and how you dress all make up who you are and is part of the story behind you the person, and you the employee. 

In an interview with GamesBeat, Tõke talked about how his company will bring that representation and consistent identity across all experiences saying, “We’re doing cross-game answers for the metaverse, as we saw that people spend a lot of time in virtual worlds.” Tõke added, “The metaverse is not one app, or one game or one platform. It’s a network of thousands of different virtual worlds. So it makes sense for users to have an avatar to traverse across many different virtual worlds.”

Image from Ready Player Me

“You have to build the network out for diversity as a developer tools company,” said Tõke in a interview with VRScout. “That’s where we spend most of our time.”

The metaverse is expanding each day with more social experiences and more companies and industries uncovering its potential for everything from connecting consumers through a metaverse portal, marketing goals, B2B, employee training and recruitment and how we can improve things such as automation, robotics, infrastructure, warehouse management, and so much more. 

Earlier in the year Ready Player Me announced a partnership with the AR company 8th Wall that would allow you to bring the Ready Player Me avatars into any 8th Wall AR experience using A-Frame, which potentially could bring more personalization into AR training initiatives such as on-the-fly training or reskilling. It could also have an impact on how companies approach marketing, recruitment and onboarding.

Tõke realized that we’re not totally there yet but the metaverse is gaining a lot of momentum. “Based on our rapid growth rate (40% month on month), I think it is fair to say the VR industry is booming right now, and expanding quicker than many people realize. Like any new technology, however, its success largely depends on how quickly it is adopted by consumers, and in that respect we still have some way to go.”

You can create your own individual custom avatar at readyplayer.me.

By Bobby Carlton

There is no question about it. The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything for us. This includes our personal and professional life. Though we have started to see some normalcy in our day-to-day lives, we are seeing new concerns such as an evolving COVID virus and monkeypox, which is making people and businesses rethink how we socialize with our family, friends and the people we work with.

However a published research paper shows that people who use VR to hang out with friends through socialVR platforms, attended a virtual concert, played games, work in a VR environment, or “visited” other parts of the world, were actually really happy!

They socialized with friends and family, and they connected with work colleagues. There is a sense of normalcy inside of VR that isn't restricted with things such as travel limitations or having to worry about things such as COVID or monkeypox.

As the COVID pandemic completely disrupted and changed our lives, we found ourselves unable to participate in things that made sense to our identity. You no longer had that foundation of autobiographical memory, which is your memories of your own history. It sounds a little sciency and complex, but your memories actually play a role in your current happiness, and without them your days kind of blend into each other leaving you with this feeling of emptiness. 

This also includes your work memories. Collaborating with co-workers, approached training, and even having "water cooler" talk.

Image from Meta

So yes, the quarantine has created a long lasting impact and it's definitely making you feel pretty burned out, even in today's world.

Italian researchers worked with 400 participants over a three month period. Users were encouraged to view 360 photos and videos of other countries, visit virtual gardens, beaches, encouraged them to spend time with other VR users in platforms such as VRChat or Mozilla Hubs, work together, and even had users jump into VR to create a safe and comfortable personal bubble to reflect and be alone, a place referred to as the “Secret Garden.” 

Participants were then interviewed and researchers found them to be happier. They were much more engaging and felt better and more confident about their work.

During an interview with CNBC Make It, Professor Giuseppe Riva Ph.D., the author of the report and a professor of general psychology at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, said “We define who we are through the memory of people and events that occurred within the different places we frequent (home, events, work).

Riva and his team told participants to use VR anytime during the day. Morning, afternoon, before bed or anytime they felt anxious due to the lack of social activities. There were no restrictions. Use VR in the same way you’d text a friend or a co-worker.

Image from HTC Vive

The end results showed that people felt calm and connected during the height of the pandemic. They were happy. They had that sense of autobiographical memory that helped connect them with what makes them happy, and that this approach still works today, even without a global pandemic.

With more and more businesses moving to remote work or a blended work environment, using a digital twin or a metaverse portal to connect workers helps create happy employees. It creates an autobiographical work memory, which is really important for team collaboration and team moral. VR helps get people out of video calls and into something more meaningful.

As we start to see more and more positive benefits of VR, we’re starting to see VR adoption take hold on consumers and businesses in many industries.

But others are experiencing that true happiness from VR and not because they are gaining from it monetarily. They’re happy because it’s giving them a way to spend time with friends and escape the confinement of their homes. The metaverse is opening new opportunities for people to connect throughout the day and this includes workhours.

One VR user talked about why being in VR makes them happy, saying, “I work from home and being at home alone all day sucks. I wake up, work in my living room for 8 hours and then that’s it. I’ve never left my home. I live in a rural place so I don’t have a downtown I can visit. Going to work is my social time!” the individual goes on to say, “But once I put on my headset, I’m able to leave my house and hang out with the people I work with or people that I’ve made in virtual reality. I know I’m not actually leaving my house, but it feels like I do. I get to talk with people and socialize, and it makes me really happy to have that connection. It’s honestly saved me from going crazy. There have definitely been times when I’m really bummed out, but once I get into VR, I’m happy to see people I know.”

Image from USC Institute for Creative Technologies

During an interview with CNBC, Skip Rizzo, Ph.D., Director of Medical VR at the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California talked about how an immersive VR simulation could be “emotionally evocative,” and explains that VR gives you the tools to develop your own relaxation strategies to cope with the stress of COVID-19 anxiety or any stressful situation. It gives you a portal to escapism. 

Through Riva’s research, he and his team have suggested the following VR user guide that you can use to help you stay happy. 

Image by FS Studio

Use VR to reflect on your identity and future goals. Jump into your "Secret Garden" to think of your family, friends, or maybe you just want to clear your mind. Or use the space as a way to work out a work problem. Of course, be social!

Point is, VR can make you happy. It connects you with the people you love, people that make you laugh, people you work with, and allows you to escape reality and even join reality. 

That’s a good feeling.

Here at FS Studio, we have been playing with the latest Beta of iOS 7 and there's a lot to like.  They are starting to tweak the design a little to combat the initial starkness of the ultra-Flat UI design direction.  The thing that jumped out at me was the re-introduction of some skeuomorphic elements.  There are some that work and some that definitely don't work.  Personally I prefer a semi-Flat UI design over a strictly flat design.  Things like a very subtle shadow or a slight embossment, that works for me.  Check out some of these elements that have popped up:

The Good

Skeuomorphic UI Design Switch:

This is nice a subtle and introduces a little fun into the UX/User Interface.  They have a nice little animation as the switch animates.  It invites you to touch it.

Drop-Shadow:

This is a very subtle treatment of drop-shadow which can make proud elements that you want to highlight or bring to slight prominence.

Embossment:

This is similar to the subtle drop-shadow effect, it helps cue the user into the functionality and implies functionality.  This is one of the issues with a strictly flat design is that distinguishing functional interactive elements from non-interactive elements.

 

The Ugly

Texture:

This just seems a little ham-handed and is a hold over to the pre iOS7 design.  I'm not saying that you can't have texture in a semi-flat treatment, but flat is all about style and polish.  If you haven't noticed already the keyword is subtle.

When designing the Transit & Trails app for iOS devices, we wanted to create a look consistent with the branding already established by the Transit & Trails website. When it comes to designing interfaces, however, you've got to be careful not to come up with totally unfamiliar concepts and run the risk of confusion, a steep learning curve, and an ultimately less usable product. Creativity is necessary for good design, but it has to be balanced with careful attention to the platform and to users' expectations. To that end, here are some thoughts to keep in mind when designing for iOS:

 

 

 

 

Of course, there are plenty of exceptions to the concepts mentioned above. You may well run into a situation that calls for a completely new UI element, or you may want to create your own UI from scratch and abandon the established model altogether. Whatever your objective, it's important to consider the habits that users have developed on a platform, and to diverge from the norm with intention and planning.

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