Bigger hair? A new gender? More limbs? The “real you” can be anything in Social VR

  • Nate Levin, IMVU Producer, blends Burning Man philosophy, VR technology and social media to create tomorrow’s communication
  • Radical self-expression reveals a “realer you” and truer connections
  • Would meeting your boss in a different form within Social VR make your working relationship better?

Messaging and social networks are second nature to us all — and now, with the widespread adoption of VR, virtual communities are about to leap out from chatrooms and become a lot more real in the realm of Social VR.

Or, as Nate Levin, Producer from IMVU explains, a lot more unreal: this jump is being informed by radical festivals like Burning Man. So not only will Social VR allow stronger, closer, more meaningful virtual relationships; they’ll be much more expressive and weird than the real world.

Suddenly, meeting over a coffee and croissant sounds downright boring... listen to Nate’s vision of a truly social, virtual future — and read his key thoughts below.

Social VR is not about tech or “features”. It’s about what makes us human:

If you work in or with Social VR: focus on the human. Focus on the tribe and what brings us together. What will keep you in Social VR are the people you meet and the experiences you have.

People already know what Social VR will feel like:

Social VR feels like the kind of connection you get when you’re sitting right next to the person you’re talking to. This is different to like social gaming, where collaborative play is rooted in a made-up game world: Social VR feels like people being in a room and actually together.

Nate Levin

Social VR platforms exist already, in the shape of real-world transformative festivals:

Think of Burning Man and IMVU as platforms: they’re platforms for people to create, express themselves and to socialise.

They’re platforms in the way that Youtube is a platform to do creative, expressive things.

Social VR is about alternative lifestyle acceptance:

Transformational festival cultures like Burning Man allow you to meet and engage with strangers from all over the world in a safe, easy way. You can dress, behave and react as a character that best expresses who you are. A festival provides both the “gateway” and platform to do this: Social VR does the same thing.

Radical self-expression and unique user avatars are vital to Social VR:

The self-created avatar is extremely important: it’s how everyone first meets you. Seeing multiple users’ avatars in a face-to-face experience is key to the future of Social VR. And at Burning Man, a similar idea takes place: festival-goers plan, create and perform their identity.

Avatars are also grounding, freeing, and allow fluid connectivity:

Unique avatars ground communication and allow “real-feel” validation from the other people through participation and creation in the shared VR experience.

Choosing a new name, look and attitude is important for self-expression but also for anonymity: you are free to be yourself. The pressure to perform is off.

Choose your tribe early on — then hang around to build security and stickiness:

Social VR taps into our tribal roots. Pick a demographic from the start and nurture it. IMVU and Social VR is very focussed on “rooms” — like campsites: you might spend most of your time a group of 30–40 people who are like you.

You then bake-in your cultural values from the start. These are the values that will define it later on, and drive growth as well as helps community policing. The cultural ethos is built-in, so it supports a safe space for expression, communication and empathy.

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