Social virtual reality services Convrge and AltspaceVR are both working on apps that will allow people to occupy a virtual space together using Samsung phones combined with Gear VR. Likewise, Facebook’s Oculus released an app for viewing Vimeo and Twitch together with four other people. Oculus Social is still in an alpha, however, and many of the planned features have not been added yet.
In contrast, with an update this week to their award-winning $10 app Daydream Blue, Richie Hoagland and Shea Rembold have released the first true* social, mobile, VR game. Players can voice chat and discover fun things to do, like playing golf or fishing, with a couple other people in mobile VR.
I spent about 35 minutes with the two of them in VR learning about what they’ve built. Physically, I was in California and the two developers at RalphVR were in Kentucky. Virtually, using my Gear VR, I felt like I was exploring a serene cartoon valley with them. If you own the $100 goggles and a compatible Samsung phone, you could download this app and explore it today. They are releasing an update soon to make it a little easier to find other people online who are using the social features.
“We have plans of where we want the game to go over the next six months and year, and it gets pretty weird. But in an awesome way,” Hoagland said.
Also, in a first for me, Rembold used a PC version of the game to record me interviewing Hoagland while we were immersed in VR. We toured through their world. I went fishing and met a cute robot. Hoagland showed me how to skip stones and play golf in VR too. I asked him about his plans for the future and what sort of time commitment and skill it takes to create something like Daydream Blue, which won a $100,000 prize earlier this year in the Oculus Mobile VR Jam, allowing them to continue to work on the game and add multiplayer features.
Check out a 22-minute edited version of the interview at the top of this post. There’s also a 35-minute raw video embedded below that shows a couple of the initial bugs, like a slight time delay between saying something and having another person respond, which led us to accidentally interrupt one another.
We should be able to do more of these interviews in the coming weeks and months using a wider range of apps, so if you’re a developer or researcher in VR, drop me a line using firstname.lastname@example.org so we can talk about setting up future VR interviews.
My immense thanks to Hoagland and Rembold for recording the footage (44 gigabytes of it!) and my apologies for any “ums” from me that might’ve made it into the shorter cut and the loss in quality between the two versions of the video, which was unfortunately compressed a few times. We’ll post higher quality versions of VR interviews in the future (Especially once we get someone in for video production… oh yeah, WE’RE HIRING!)
* As a side note, VR Karts is another multiplayer game on Gear VR and voice chat is on the list of features those developers are planning to add, but it’s not currently available.