A man standing in a living room wearing a virtual reality headset. Surrounding him are several virtual screens, each showing a different person. They appear to be having a virtual meeting.

Enter the World of Social VR

by Molly Fitz-Patrick | | 11 min read

The metaverse and other social VR environments push the boundaries of communication and collaboration—they offer both users and designers a unique platform for interaction and engagement. Discover how to infuse sociability into your VR products to create experiences that transcend space. 

Social VR is an important aspect of VR. It immerses users in interactive virtual environments, and gives us the opportunity to redefine communication and collaboration. Through social VR we can expand the possibilities of traditional VR experiences and allow people across the globe to connect in new and meaningful ways. Explore this social VR and the metaverse and how you bring sociability into your experience. 

What is Social VR?

Social Virtual Reality (VR) refers to immersive digital environments where users can interact, communicate, and engage with each other in real-time using virtual reality technology. It merges VR with social interaction, allowing individuals to connect, socialize, and collaborate within a shared virtual space. This type of virtual reality bridges the gap between real-life gatherings and online chat rooms, offering a way to connect with people globally.

There are specific social VR apps, many of which are free and accessible on various devices, including VR headsets or PCs. Some popular social VR apps include VRChat, Mozilla Hubs, AltspaceVR, and Rec Room.

In most social VR apps, users can create avatars. They can also create personal rooms for themselves and friends or join public rooms to meet new people. These virtual spaces offer various activities, such as games or dance parties which provide a wide range of social experiences.

A screenshot of avatar customization from an application.

Avatars serve as users’ virtual personas. These avatars can range from realistic depictions of themselves to imaginative characters like animals, objects, or cartoons.

Social interactions in VR can take different forms, and users can engage at their own comfort levels. Whether making new friends, participating in activities, or simply exploring the virtual environment, the key is to have fun and treat others with respect. Social VR offers a unique way for people to connect and socialize, expanding the boundaries of traditional social interactions.

How to Bring Social VR into Your Experience

In this video, Frank talks about social VR, its characteristics and how you can incorporate social elements into VR experiences. 

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Here are five ways you can bring social elements into your VR experience: 

  1. Avatar Design and Customization: Let users create and personalize their avatars. This fosters a strong sense of identity and self-expression, which can enhance social interactions and emotional connections within the virtual environment.

  2. Collaborative Activities: Interactive and cooperative experiences that require users to work together on tasks or challenges encourage teamwork and communication, which create a strong foundation for social engagement.

  3. Social Focal Points: Designated areas or activities that naturally draw users together, like shared gaming zones or event spaces, promote spontaneous social interactions and gatherings.

  4. Realistic Social Behaviors: We can enhance presence and authenticity and make social interactions more meaningful and relatable when we incorporate realistic behaviors like eye contact, gestures, and body language into avatars and interactions.

  5. Communication Tools: User-friendly communication tools like voice chat, text messaging, and expressive gestures facilitate easy and natural communication so that users can connect and chat successfully.

The Metaverse and Other Social VR Platforms

What is the Metaverse? 

It’s difficult to give an exact definition of the metaverse as its scope remains vague and subject to interpretation. The metaverse can refer to a variety of different ideas, but in its broadest sense, the metaverse refers to a complex and evolving concept within the tech industry that envisions a futuristic digital realm where VR, augmented reality (AR), user-generated content, and digital economies converge to create immersive and interconnected experiences. It’s often depicted as a space where people can socialize, work, play, and transact, blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds.

Screenshot from a metaverse application. It depicts many different avatars interacting in a virtual club house.

The metaverse provides endless opportunities for individuals to explore, create, and collaborate in virtual spaces. This emerging phenomenon can revolutionize how we communicate, conduct business, and experience entertainment, redefining the boundaries of what is possible in the digital age.

In the context of VR, the metaverse is a digital space where people can interact, play, work, and socialize. Essentially it’s a big, shared, and immersive online world where the boundaries between real and digital life can become blurred, and you can do things like meet friends, explore places, and even buy and sell virtual items. 

The Take Away

Social VR allows users to connect, communicate, and engage in shared virtual spaces. Users can create avatars, personalize their experiences, and interact through activities, games, and communication tools.

Social elements in VR experiences include avatar customization, collaborative activities, social focal points, realistic social behaviors, and communication tools.

The metaverse is the emerging frontier of social VR and refers to a futuristic digital realm where VR, augmented reality, user-generated content, and digital economies converge, allowing people to socialize, work, play, and transact in an immersive online world.

References and Where to Learn More

Read up on social VR safety tips in The Metaculture’s blog post, “How to Stay Safe in Social VR”. 

Check out this design guide for the Metaverse.

Learn more about the Metaverse in Wired’s article, “What Is the Metaverse, Exactly?”.

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