Virtually Social

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaAbstract

1 Citazioni (Scopus)


Although the so-called new wave of virtual reality hasn’t taken off as quickly as some enthusiasts had anticipated, market figures are quite encouraging. According to a report from Canalys,1 in Q3 of 2017, Sony shipped 490,000 PlayStation VR headsets, Oculus shipped 210,000 Rift headsets and HTC shipped 160,000 Vive units—totaling almost one million units sold. Projections for the near future show this positive trend. Research firm IDC has forecasted significant growth in both augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) markets, with headset adoption expected to increase from just under 10 million units in 2016 to 100 million units in 2021.2 Despite these promising numbers, most analysts would agree that the real potential of this technology will never be released without the full development of social VR. Actually, most of VR apps existing on the market provide solitary immersive experiences that significantly undermine users’ feelings of ‘‘social presence,’’ which is an essential component of the virtual experience. In this sense, we are still far from the forecast that Mark Zuckerberg made in 2016 at the Samsung Galaxy S7 event when he declared that VR would be ‘‘the most social platform ever.’’3 Inspired by science fiction novels such as William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, the idea of a shared virtual world in which people interact through avatars has always had a central place in the development of VR. However, reconstructing the evolution of social VR is not easy, the difficulty lying in the lack of a commonly accepted definition of what constitutes a shared virtual world. Adopting a broad definition, one could include in this category the first Multi-User Dungeons and even the arcade combact games of the 1980s. Actually, these applications eventually led to massively multiplayer online roleplaying games, more commonly known as MMORPGs, a genre of role-playing games in which a large number of players interact within a virtual world. In 2003, the U.S. company Linden Lab launched Second Life, a virtual world in which users could design an avatar to live their ‘‘second life’’ online. Second Life was regarded by media as one of the most important innovations at that time. In 2007, at the apex of its popularity, this community counted more than 1.1 million actives users and a plethora of virtual places to explore, including cinemas, concerts, schools, discos, shops, and art exhibitions. However, despite the kaleidoscopic variety of its virtual scenarios, Second Life was not able to sustain interest beyond the hype balloon, and soon many companies and organizations that had created their branches in the virtual world diverted their resources back to ‘‘real’’ life. Nowadays, the number of Second Life active players has declined, but there are still more than half a million users. Fifteen years after Second Life, what are the most promising social VR applications? The options are not lacking, although the number of available services is not as high as might be expected considering the important added value that social presence brings to virtual experiences. A first example is Linden Lab’s Sansar (currently in beta), which is considered by many as the ‘‘sequel’’ to Second Life— although there are few important differences among the two projects. First, Sansar has a platform-oriented architecture that consists of a number of interconnected user-generated virtual worlds, while Second Life was built as a giant, continuous virtual space. Furthermore, in Sansar, each virtual environment acts as an entry point to the platform, whereas in Second Life, users access the world through one front door. Moreover, the creation of content in Sansar is expected to be more straightforward than it is in Second Life, giving the user the possibility to drag an
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)338-339
Numero di pagine2
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2018


  • Applied Psychology
  • Communication
  • Computer Science Applications1707 Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Social Psychology


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