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How Social VR Helped This Esports Player Overcome Social Anxiety

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Julian Apellanes was never comfortable going out of his house and although he struggled with issues like anxiety and depression, he didn’t want those things to define him. In a trend noticed by others, Apellanes has discovered a new path to reality through social VR. And unsurprisingly, he has dreamed of immersive gaming since he was a child.

“I’ve been gaming all my life and I thought how cool it would be to be inside those worlds,” the 27-year-old explained to me in an interview. Once news about the original Oculus Kickstarter came along years ago, he kept up with the progress and dreamed of a day when he’d be able to immerse himself in the gaming environment rather than simply watching the action unfold on a 2D screen.

Finally, when the Oculus Rift was released in 2016, his dream became a reality, but he couldn’t have known how being immersed in virtual environments would actually give him the confidence to face more traditional social settings.

Palidore in San Jose for Oculus Connect 6
Julian Apellanes

Apellanes became interested in gaming as a very young child. Raised by his grandparents, he would watch his grandpa play games as a toddler and by the time he was seven or eight years old, he was a master himself.

“I got my online / gaming alias from my grandpa,” explained Apellanes. “He originally came up with the name ‘Palidore’ as the name of his character in the RPG classic Baldur’s Gate, in the late 90s.”

Although his early years in gaming were spent in the lap of his granddad, watching him play and occasionally being permitted to help with a click of the mouse, eventually he began creating his own saves of the game and the name Palidore stuck with him.

Throughout his childhood and teen years, Apellanes started to spend more and more time playing games. In the case of VR, however, you’re actually more present and engaged in the virtual environments, whether you’re floating above the Earth or flying through a virtual arena.

“VR kind of blended the borders between reality and virtual reality,” said Apellanes. “It gave me the first step through that door of interacting with people a lot more so although I was still indoors and interacting with people within my own house, it was very social.”

vrchat rec room

Early studies of the technology, such as one Facebook IQ commissioned with Neurons Inc in 2017, revealed that people respond positively to interactions in virtual reality. This is particularly true of introverts, who might be less self-conscious and have more confidence in a virtual environment.

Social platforms such as AltspaceVR, Bigscreen, VR Chat, and Rec Room are revolutionizing social interactions. Games with social lobbies where players can hang out, chat, and even talk about tough life issues such as dating, schoolwork, and problems at home are indicative of the fact that people are possibly more comfortable in their virtual bodies than their real ones.

“Just getting to be part of the worlds and experience a totally different reality than you’re used to,” said Apellanes, “but still in the comfort of your own home, that’s huge.”

In the summer of 2017, Apellanes began playing in the beta of Echo Arena, a built-for-VR game from Ready At Dawn that utilizes a unique form of movement as players fly, glide, and boost through a zero-gravity environment rather than walking or teleporting. The immersive feeling of the game is so convincing that players frequently report feeling a sensation of “floating” in physical reality after initially playing the game.

Soon after the game’s release, it was featured in the first season of the Oculus-sponsored, ESL-run VR League (called VR Challenger League at the time). Apellanes created a team with two friends – Kerestell “Lemming” Smith and Bryan “iShiny” McCarthy – and they proceeded to dominate the newly formed league.

vr league echo arena esports championship

Being part of a championship team boosted Apellanes’ self-esteem, but the glory of winning also came with a price. Apellanes would have to leave the comfort of his home to compete at LAN events. Initially the team competed at Oculus Connect 4 in San Jose, California and eventually they would travel to Katowice, Poland and Leicester, England.

The team roster changed a bit during seasons 2 and 3 as Simeonk21 replaced iShiny, who remained on as coach. They managed to claim the second world championship in season 2, but failed to qualify for season 3 finals.

Apellanes took it in stride. Since he couldn’t attend VR League Season 3 Grand Finals as a finalist, the young man who wouldn’t leave his room several years earlier purchased a plane ticket to Leicester, England and attended the finals as a community member.

“Everyone has a purpose in life and sometimes it takes time to find it,” stated Apellanes. “For me, getting to go into Echo and being pretty good at it, start making friends, and things like that … my personal success there made me realize I could be good at something. I discovered who I was and who I could be.”

Since he became involved with VR esports, in addition to being one of the world’s top players, Apellanes has also written articles about his experiences and he has become a caster for the Echo Arena VR Master League (VRML). He was recently brought on as a board member for the VRML, a community-driven platform that features the most competitive VR games on the market.

“VR allowed me to kind of show myself what I was capable of,” he stated, adding that he has been “continuing the momentum since then.”

Eclipse image from ESL VR League Sesaon 2

“VR has been a positive influence in many ways,” he said. “VR has helped me socially and mentally with things like anxiety and depression. It allows you to step out of your comfort zones while still being in your comfort zone. VR lets you get out without getting out.”

When people can experience environments at a self-regulated pace, it enables them to develop coping skills that they might find difficult to develop in traditional environments. Whether someone is extremely shy or they’ve experienced trauma, the ability to control the rate of exposure to an environment is vital to success.

The phenomenon of virtual reality being used as exposure therapy without actually forcing people into stress-inducing settings in physical reality hasn’t gone unnoticed by others. Even the Veterans Administration is using virtual reality to help service members deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through programs such as Bravemind VR Exposure Therapy.

“VR is a tech we’ve never quite seen before,” said Apellanes. “It immerses your brain in ways it doesn’t expect. Because of that, it helped me and it helps a lot of other people step out of their comfort zones and experience new things.”

These days Apellanes stays incredibly busy casting games and promoting VR esports. He keeps his eyes open for opportunities as the industry continues to grow and he explores career avenues, looking for ways he might be able to use his talents in a world where virtual and physical realities intersect.

echo vr


Do you have any stories about how VR has helped you with social anxiety, depression, or something else? Let us know down in the comments below!

Source: https://uploadvr.com/esports-social-vr-anxiety/

AR/VR

Gnomes & Goblins to be Wevr’s Biggest Production, 10x Larger Than the Preview

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To say that Gnomes & Goblins has been a little elusive is probably an understatement. The project is the work of Wevr in collaboration with Jon Favreau, the director behind films like Iron Man as well as Disney+ series The Mandalorian. The title is now slowly coming out of the woodwork ahead of an expected 2020 release, with Wevr now confirming to VRFocusthat it’ll be the company’s biggest production to date in a recent interview.

Gnomes & Goblins

First a little backstory. Obviously, with a big name like Favreau’s attached to it Gnomes & Goblins instantly grabbed headlines when it was announced in 2016. Virtual reality (VR) development was still in its early years back then and the type of experience the director wanted to build had barely been imagined. What was even more surprising – and helped stoke the flames of interest – was the release of a free demo showcasing the miniature fantasy world. That demo is still free on Steam for HTC Vive and Valve Index if you’ve not tried it yet.

After that there was silence. Many thought the project had been shelved – as so many are – until, out of the blue, a teasing tweet and website appeared saying ‘Coming Soon’. That might have been a little preemptive as it then took until now for Wevr to really begin talking about what’s set to be its biggest project to date.

VRFocus got the chance to chat with Wevr’s Jake Rowell, Director/Executive Producer and Neville Spiteri, Executive Producer, about the project and what’s been happening over the past several years.

“The 2016 release, the preview, was really a tester, a little sampler as Jon [Faverau] would call it,” Rowell started to explain. “And after that we sat down and basically started a whole new project up, greenlighting a whole new adventure and the idea was from the preview which was a small room-scale, forest adventure plot but our goal quickly became ‘we want to do the entire forest’. And we want to grow that one relationship with a single character to a society of characters, and we want to introduce the gnomes and what they’re about and we want to introduce more of the magical element you got at the end with the bell when you shrink.”

Gnomes & Goblins

“One of the things Neville and I have done since the beginning even with theBlu is to start something small, do a sample set of it and then grow the product over time. And what’s gone on from 2017, ‘18 and ‘19 is really this small team ‘big dreams’ effort for what Gnomes & Goblins could be for an actual release that we want to charge for,” Rowell continued.

“We know that its a lot larger than the preview, like a 10x, but its not as large as we probably would have liked it to be sometimes. Jon had some very big visions, but we’ve set it up for the future of the franchise, so there’s a lot of promise.”

When it came to actual gameplay and what you can do Rowell and Spiteri didn’t want to detail too much but they did say: “It’s a VR interactive experience, we’re not trying to make a movie, we’re not really trying to make a full-on game. There are game features and aspects to it, we do have a collectable system, we do have different interactable items that you can progress through the world.

“There are movie elements where there’s a high-level story narrative that you’re following through the goblin, your own personal heroes journey in a lot of ways,” Rowell continued. “We want you to be you, we don’t want you to role play like you’re Mario or some other character, you’re walking into this VR world as you, you decide how you want to interact with it.

“Do you want to hang out with the goblin character all day or do you want to poke a little deeper into this world? And we have a lot of references to Disneyland and we also have a lot of references to the show Westworld where if you want to come in and just do the first base level stuff you can and it’s really enjoyable and you can do it for as long as you want. If you want to start peeling back the layers a little bit there’s a lot more there to discover and find and see, like Alice in Wonderland the deeper down the rabbit hole you go. And that’s by design in the space, so you do have a layered cake going on between an arc of a story which is your heroes journey and then as you poke into the world you have a lot more agency, you realise there are a lot more things to do and see.”

Gnomes & Goblins

As VR continues to grow it never stops adding fresh faces who’ve either never tried or maybe only sampled the technology briefly. And it was important to balance the experience for newcomers and veterans alike: “A lot of inspiration came from Animal Crossing and how Animal Crossing handles its user base, I think you can come in and play it as a newbie and you can be super experienced and have a lot of fun,” Rowell reveals.

“We’ve watched the evolution of the VR industry and we looked at what consumers and players and fans of the medium gravitated towards,” Spiteri explains. “It’s pretty clear that the affordances in VR of having a degree of interactivity where you can not only move around but you can also fully immerse yourself and be fully embodied with pretty sophisticated controllers [is important]. We’ve been watching what’s been resonating and whether it’s been experiences like Job Simulator or Beat Saber or Half-Life: Alyx, these are all very, very different experiences. Even though you could say our focus is not to make a game but these are interactive, fully embodied gaming mechanics, things that you would associate with a game. So we haven’t shied away from ‘game’ because if ‘game’ means that you can really feel like you’re in the world, navigating through it, interacting with it and are part of it well that’s certainly part of the vision and experience we want to deliver to consumers.”

As the single-player title takes you on a journey into this enchanted world, the gnomes and goblins which inhabit the forest form an essential part of the emotional connection Wevr is aiming for said Rowell: “I think at the core of our experience, yes the beautiful world is there because you need that with VR, you want someone to feel like they’re immersed in a space. Once you start peeling that back it becomes about personal relationships again. This is a single-player experience so your main relationship is with the goblins, and specifically your main goblin you befriend he becomes your guide into this world and so we’ve taken players through that befriending process in the preview. We’re going to do it again here but there’s an element where when you start peeling it back and see the society that decision tree becomes a lot more complex.

Gnomes & Goblins

“Each little goblin is kind of watching what you’re doing and there are moments where they’re looking at you, their ears are responding to you, if you throw something at them they’re going to flinch. If you try to come up and hand them something they’re going to get excited and happy. And all of those little elements are personal connections and we’ve taken it back and a lot of conversations with Jon and internally with the team, we’ve taken it back to a relationship like you have with your dog. Your dog becomes like your best friend and that relationship is almost a mirror to your emotional state. We’ve been very cognizant about our AI but also the design of our character and how it responds to you to create a bit of a mirror, you will pour more of the emotions into it based off of what’s in your head and your imagination, and the goblin’s going to be there to respond accordingly.”

With the team confirming Gnomes & Goblins will be its biggest production there’s still lots more to learn ahead of the expected launch later this year. As further details are released, VRFocus will keep you updated.

Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2020/08/gnomes-goblins-to-be-wevrs-biggest-production-10x-larger-than-the-preview/

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AR/VR

How to Create a Cloud-connect AR Experience in 15 Minutes or Less

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echoAR

Ever wondered how easy it could be to create an augmented reality (AR) experience? Ponder and wonder no longer! Here’s a step-by-step guide to quickly create and even share a cloud-connect AR experience!

Learn how to get an access key to start building 3D applications.

This is the easy part. Head over to echoAR’s registration page.

  1. Fill out the form with your name and email address
  2. Choose a plan (all start free 🎉)
  3. Set a password
  4. Check that you agree to our Term of Service
  5. Click the register button.

That’s it! Check your inbox for an automatic email with your key 🔑.

  • Check your spam folder if you don’t get an email within a few seconds

Learn how to get to the console and load your API key.

Now that you have an API key, you are all set to start working with the console. Upon registration you will be redirected to the console or you can use the link in the registration email to get back to the console anytime.

Make sure your 🔑 is set in the header or type and load it yourself.

Learn how to add a 3D model to the console.

You can add content by clicking the “Add To Cloud” button.

Click on one of the sample models, then “Next”, “Next” again, and then “Done”. Wait for the model to upload and appear in the Content page.

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2. The First No-Headset Virtual Monitor

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4. Creating remote MR productions

Learn how to instantly see 3D models in AR through your phone.

Click on the “[ ]” icon to generate and show the QR codes. Make sure the “See on the floor”tab is selected and shows a QR code that can be detected by the camera.

  • If this tab does not exist, continue to the other options

Scan the QR code with your phone’s camera app or with a QR reader app.

  • Latest iOS and Android phones are able to read QR code with their default camera apps.

Click the pop-up message to get redirected to our website.

Click the “See in AR” button.

Move the phone around until it detects the surface around you and tap the screen to place the 3D model on the floor around you. You can scale the model by pinching the screen with two fingers.

You did it! 🎉

Click on the “[ ]” icon to generate and show the QR codes.

Choose the “See on an Image” tab to show a QR code that can be detected by the camera.

Scan the QR code with your phone’s camera app or with a QR reader app.

  • Latest iOS and Android phones are able to read QR code with their default camera apps.

Click the pop-up message to get redirected to our website. Your browser should open.

  • You might need to allow camera access. In iOS, only Safari browsers are allowed to access the camera. In Android, Chrome browser is recommended as the default browser.

Your camera should open in the browser. Troubleshoot camera issues here.

Keep your camera pointed to the QR code to see the 3D model appear on top of the QR code.

You did it! 🎉

Go to the console in your phone’s browser by typing console.echoAR.xyz or scan the QR code below get redirected automatically.

Scan to go to the console

Make sure you are logged in and that your key is loaded.

Click on the “[expand]” icon next to the model preview.

You will get redirected to our website.

Click the “See in AR” button.

Move the phone around until it detects the surface around you and tap the screen to place the 3D model on the floor around you. You can scale the model by pinching the screen with two fingers.

You did it! 🎉

Learn how to instantly share 3D models and allow others to see 3D models in AR through their phone.

You can generate a short link and share it with others so they can see the same 3D model you have in the console.

Click the “<” icon to automatically copy a short link to the model into your clipboard. You are also able to automatically share it through WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Reddit.

Paste and share the link with friends on social media or send it as text. Sharing this link will automatically give other access to the model and also show a QR code they can scan for easy access. For example:

Clicking the short link redirects to our website where they can click the “See in AR” button to place the 3D model on the floor around them.

What to do when things don’t work as expected.

Troubleshoot issues here. You can check out our full documentation for other useful tutorials here.

echoAR (http://www.echoAR.xyz; Techstars ’19) is a cloud platform for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) that provides tools and server-side infrastructure to help developers & companies quickly build and deploy AR/VR apps and experiences.

Source: https://arvrjourney.com/how-to-create-a-cloud-connect-ar-experience-in-15-minutes-or-less-b33f5c732d04?source=rss—-d01820283d6d—4

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AR/VR

Mortal Blitz: Combat Arena’s PlayStation VR Open Beta Begins Next Week

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It was revealed in June that South Korean virtual reality (VR) developer Skonec Entertainment has been preparing for the upcoming release of its free multiplayer title Mortal Blitz: Combat Arena for PlayStation VR. Set to launch next month, the studio has just announced that an open beta will take place next week.

Mortal Blitz: Combat Arena

The beta will be split between Asian and Western regions, with the former seeing the beta launch next Monday, 17th August, with the US and Europe able to play the videogame from Thursday 23rd. Both betas will finish on the same day, however, Sunday 23rd.

While exact details regarding what the beta will feature haven’t been released just yet – as there’s multiplayer and solo modes in the main title – Skonec Entertainment has confirmed options to ‘customize your weapons and diversify your maps’ won’t be active until after the beta has been completed.

When Mortal Blitz: Combat Arena launches for PlayStation VR in September it’ll feature a 15+ mission campaign across normal, hard and expert difficulty levels to tackle solo. The core of the gameplay will revolve around its multiplayer for up to 4 people. Quick Match (2-4 players), Ranked Match and Event Match options will be available with players able to access stats, rankings, achievements and titles earnt after each match.

Mortal Blitz: Combat Arena

This is an arcade action FPS so there’s no hiding or camping anywhere. Players jump into arenas filled with hexagonal platforms which they can teleport between. On arrival, light barriers appear to give players some defence but these can be removed by opponents with weapon fire. Thus encouraging everyone to keep moving, looking for better vantage points in the undulating environments.

While this will be a PlayStation VR only title, to begin with, Skonec Entertainment has already confirmed it will eventually support PC VR headsets like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. As further details for Mortal Blitz: Combat Arena are released, VRFocus will let you know.

Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2020/08/mortal-blitz-combat-arenas-playstation-vr-open-beta-begins-next-week/

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