"We are a social XR cultural hub" - Louis Cacciuttolo (VRrOOm)
Established in 2016 as a content platform, VRrOOm (link) is developing as a distribution platform for festivals with a service of virtual rooms to broadcast projects and host XR users.
Already in business with events such as Venice VR, VRrOOm did not wait for the current situation to offer its services. But for the past few weeks, Louis and his teams (based in France and Italy) have been hard at work meeting demand. Before more important announcements by the end of the year?
VRrOOM was launched in 2016. I was living in San Francisco, and many people were interested in virtual reality. But the subject was only emerging globally. Coming from the world of entertainment, my dream has always been to bring the incomparable emotion of the live artistic performances to the broadest audiences possible. My thing is really to work on accessibility. And I believe that virtual reality can bring that very emotion, pending the day when most people will inevitably be equipped with headsets. In the meantime, we can still rely on broadcasting via PCs.
Initially, VRrOOm was launched as a VR/AR news aggregator website, which allowed us to build a community that is primarily interested in culture and entertainment. The second step was to offer our service to organize events in virtual reality, through an app (link). It was launched in 2018 (in beta) with NewImages, then officially at Venice VR. Since then we often host festivals to showcase all or part of their programming (i.e. the 360 Film Festival). This year we were originally planning to launch the social XR VRrOOm world on VRChat in September, but given the current context we have decided to make available to the public a preliminary version of our new universe, which is already largely operational. We will gradually supplement it with new features in the coming months. It was necessary to respond to an obvious need and to the new uses triggered by the Covid-19 crisis.
How to set up Social VR for creators
There are many players in social VR: Engage, The Wild, Neos VR, Altspace VR... Most of them are dedicated to the enterprise world, and offer fascinating features - but we are not doing the same thing. As we are working on specific functionalities for festivals and creators, the intention is not to open our own social platform, but to be present on some of the most popular social XR networks to benefit from their traffic and addressing the specific needs of their users. VRrOOm is a “social XR cultural hub”, a stage, a virtual theater accessible to the public, no matter where people are located. We are monitoring developments in the XR industry with that objective in mind, wishing to open VRrOOm universes where it makes sense. Depending on the universe created, we will choose to offer the same event everywhere across the board, or to target our activities according to each community.
We are currently present on VRChat, which has an impressive audience counting over 10,000 users concurrently connected at any given time. The VRrOOm team’s main occupation is to play around technical constraints in order to improve our users’ online experience.
VRrOOm has been dedicated to online streaming of VR content from the very beginning, in 2016. There are still some issues related to the broadcast’s quality, as our service offers no direct downloads: users must have a stable wifi connexion to enjoy our platform. It’s our basic limitation, which needs to be explained to our partners and audiences from time to time. The feedback is nevertheless very positive, even more so in those times when people can’t leave home. With the BREAK DOWN THESE WALLS event (which broadcasts one work a day until the end of confinement in partnership with Stereopsia in Belgium and Virtual Worlds in Germany), we invite creators to stream their works, organize private meetings, workshops, and also meet the audience and interact with the public, or party with their friends. We are testing a lot of things during these sessions.
Building friendships in XR
We have been lucky enough to work with very fine festivals over the long term. This allows us to keep experimentation at the heart of our work, by responding to their different requests and exchanging frequently. For instance, during the last session of the Biennale College, we set up a VRrOOm space in just two days to allow the participants to work remotely due to the Covid-19 breakout.
The key factors that give me confidence the event’s virtualization is not just a fad, but a powerful, long term trend, are on one hand the ever-growing political and ecological concern of the carbon footprint generated by festivals, and on the other hand the space and time constraints that multiply the budgets of these events. This all has an impact on the audiences globally as well.
We are moving faster than expected. If the content remains essential, we keep in mind that it is the public who is at the core of our strategy. An open social VR platform as we imagine it must be easily accessible by all. Open platforms co-host several events, and we need to let users move freely from one to the other. We must keep the word “social” at the heart of these platforms. We need to keep listening to our audience, which profile is very diverse as it can either come from the physical world, or from virtual spaces. There is a lot to learn here !