Press Release, Mar. 2018 – Iryna Dzyubynska
CONFERENCE CHAIRMAN - BRUCE WOODEN
WVRF is excited to welcome for the second time one of the pioneers of the Social VR industry – Bruce Wooden as our Conference Chairman at our Annual Summit in June.
Social VR at its core is the idea of “social presence”, feeling as if you are in the same room with another person via VR and making an emotional connection with that person.
Known by enthusiasts as Cymatic Bruce, Bruce Wooden has been an active VR & AR industry evangelist since 2013. Bruce co-founded Silicon Valley Virtual Reality (SVVR), an international organization for VR professionals and pioneers. He also co-founded AltspaceVR, a Social VR platform that has since been acquired by Microsoft. He was a contributing writer for RoadToVR.com,
has participated in thousands of immersive experiences, accrued millions of views on video and live-streamed content, and frequently speaks at industry events.
Bruce is currently Head of Developer Relations at 6D.ai, a company that is making APIs for the AR Cloud.
On 20th of February, WVRF met up with Cymatic Bruce for a virtual interview on his trail-blazing entrepreneurial journey through Social VR.
I.D. : Good Morning Bruce Wooden or should I call you Mr. Cymatic Bruce?
B.W. : Bruce is fine.
I.D. : As an active VR evangelist and pioneer of the Social VR industry can you tell me what drove you to join this new disruptive medium and most importantly to become a leader in this industry?
It started out mostly as something to do for fun. I was in tech education, doing museum content and curriculum and having a great time when this VR stuff was first happening. It was maybe 2012, 2011. I’ve always been interested in VR and what it could possibly do. I pledged to the Oculus Kickstarter (getting in the first hour), started to post some videos, got involved with the VR community, cofounded SVVR and then just got more and more involvement in the VR industry.
At the heart of it, it’s the promise for something great that could be done through connecting people with this technology. VR is so much more effective at bridging gaps between people, building understanding, building empathy. It could be a very powerful medium, and so it becomes a great point of excitement for me, like a driver to keep going. It’s gone from one thing to another until VR has kind of taken over my life professionally and otherwise.
I.D. : How long have you been in the business?
B.W. : I guess I started paying attention to what was going on in the VR industry in 2011, beginning of 2012 with this new resurgence of VR that’s happened lately. It kind of started there, building a community, doing talks, things like that. Later in 2013, 2014, after co-founding SVVR and AltspaceVR (a social platform for Virtual Reality) is when VR was officially my professional career. There was certainly a lot of time and effort before that.
I.D. : As I know, you have led and cofounded several popular VR projects: AltspaceVR, SVVR and Social VR, which of these projects so far has been your favourite (in terms of apps, functions, avatars)?
B.W. : That’s a tough one, I don’t know if I could pick a favourite since they’ve been very different. I have a lot of love for SVVR (Silicon Valley Virtual Reality) because of what it’s become and continues to become. It’s a huge group that keeps growing, the meetups are still happening, doing a conference every year, so maybe I have the most affection for SVVR right now. It’s been all about people getting together to share their passion for Virtual Reality so that is really special.
I.D. : Which of these do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
B.W. : AltspaceVR was pretty huge. We were a leader in Social VR as a platform, but also very early. There was so much that we learned by building a platform for people that come in from around the world, to have thousands of people coming through every day and enjoying not only each other in the platform but also the things we were building through web VR tech.
I think that was a big deal, although now it’s acquired and I’ve moved on from it. AltspaceVR is definitely a milestone that I feel great about, and that I’ve learned so much from.
I.D. : What attracts the public to Social VR? Why is it important?
B.W. : Social VR is attractive to people the same way that telephone, video chat, or any other communication medium that allows you to experience another person that is not in the same physical space. That becomes attractive within itself. VR has some very special aspects to it because you can get a sense of how far away someone is, where they are in the physical space next to you so it makes conversations with three, four or ten people much easier and a big step forward for human communication in general.
Social VR is important because of what it can do beyond other communication mediums. For example, video chat offers the ability to see a person, their expression and body language. In VR you can see their physical body language, their location in space, and get a sense of their physical presence through an avatar. Most importantly, VR allows physical context for the social interaction. We may have files, data and 3D models in the space with us, that we can manipulate. VR is much closer to the type of interaction that you are used to processing as a human being, so that becomes very important as far as evolution of digital communications and human interaction.
I.D. : What do you hope to accomplish with Social VR in the near future in terms of tools and apps?
B.W. : I think for me personally I’d hope to generate more awareness and helping advise. There are a lot of Social VR companies doing a variety of different things. I would love to help those companies grow, build awareness and make good strategic decisions. I will always do my best to really make Social Virtual Reality more mainstream as a whole.
I.D. : I know that VR education is also of big importance to you, how have you incorporated it into Social VR in the past and how do you plan to incorporate it in the future?
B.W. : At AltspaceVR we definitely had a number of initiatives and prototypes for education. There was one called Molecular Viewer, pulling the molecular models in real time from the Stanford database, so you can go into a space and see the molecules in real time in 3D, in a variety of configurations, which is very cool.
We’ve done some things along those lines where we bring in 3D models from the web into the VR space and allow people to talk about them and have an expert come in and describe them.
For the latter part of 2017 I was consulting with a VR education firm based in India and helped out with the VR user experience as well as the Social VR strategy. It was a really awesome experience to flesh some of those details out.
In the future, it’s kind of open right now. There are lots of potential opportunities happening with Social VR around the world and there are some interesting things starting up worth having conversations around.
I.D. : What have been your biggest challenges/setbacks with Social VR and the VR medium in general?
B.W. : A lot of them have been based on hardware. With all the Social VR applications I’ve dealt with, we always have to consider what hardware people are using. Generally, it is good to have a social app be accessible to as many people as possible, so being cross platform is important but is a huge challenge. Running the same application on both mobile and high-end VR platforms, with users on all platforms able to communicate and interact, is very difficult.
Besides that, I think the biggest challenge is user experience and user interface. It’s kind of a blank canvas for Virtual Reality. Getting users to instantly understand what to do, where to go, and how to navigate the VR environment is hard to do. Developers are constantly coming up with new creative ways to address these problems
There is also the challenge of funding, depending on where you are in the world and what type of thing that you are building. Right now, in certain places like the Silicon Valley for example, the Venture Capital (VC) community is looking for the next big thing that will generate revenue quickly. A web-based or mobile startup might be able to generate significant revenue in 6 months, but VR is not there yet. It is a challenge to find a really good investment partner that understands this.
I.D. : Do you think that Social VR might one day replace current 2D communication programmes such as Skype or FaceTime?
B.W. : I don’t know if it will totally replace it, but it will definitely be a large user base. Just because Skype became popular does not mean we’ve stopped texting. There’s a reason for each medium and there are things that each medium does best. Texting is great for short and quick messages. Skype is great for a one-on-one international meeting. Social VR is going to be great for certain types of interactions as well.
I think Social VR will be effective for any kind of multi-user collaboration you want to do. A conference call with five people is still a clunky and frustrating experience, but in VR those same five people can arrange themselves in a circle and have a natural conversation. In addition, those five people can be looking at the same document, or even the same 3D model at once – something no other medium could do.
I.D. : What do you hope to bring to the table at our Annual Summit in June as the Conference Chairman?
B.W. : I’ve always admired WVRF as a really great forum for something that’s not happening in other places – a healthy focus on the arts and academia that are emerging within the virtual industry in Europe and worldwide. I think that’s very special. I would like to bring my enthusiasm and energy for VR in general, Social VR specifically. Also, I will do my best to make sure we have great content that is presented in the best way possible.
I think having a really great organization and understanding with any speakers that are coming to the conference is really important and makes for a great experience for the folks coming in and really helps the organization and the events grow as a whole.
I.D. : Do you have any words of wisdom for VR producers and other VR professionals?
B.W. : My go-to has been don’t prejudge anything, don’t make a decision about anything until you’ve put your face in it. That’s really the key thing. Something can sound weird or ineffective when I just describe it to you or you see it on paper, even if you see a video or screen shot. Until you see it in VR, don’t make a judgement, don’t make a final decision until then.
My other advice would be to keep plugging away on that VR or AR project. Just make a little progress each day!
I.D. : By the way, why the nickname Cymatic Bruce?
B.W. : Bruce is a nickname I’ve had for a long time and cymatics is a branch of science. Cymatics is the visual expression of wave phenomena. I wanted to have something kind of scientific for a YouTube channel I was doing at the time and it stuck throughout this time. It’s been an interesting journey over the past few years. It’s something that has personal significance and then it served to be something very unique to stand out among the community of viewers and fans.
I.D. : Thank you very much for your time, we all look forward to seeing you in a few months at our event, and are always excited to see your newest innovations in Social VR.
B.W. : Awesome, very much looking forward to June.