First of all, I hope you are all doing well and your families are healthy. The worldwide Corona pandemic has taken the world by surprise and lockdowns in all shapes or forms have put an abrupt end to the lives we typically live.
That means many of us are working from home now and are probably hopping from conference call to conference call like this guy.
Before the Corona outbreak I would normally teach in college and work with my students in person on a daily basis. While I'm writing this, all schools are closed and lessons have moved to online platforms. Luckily I had previously recorded several online courses for companies that needed training and my students were already using those courses in school as additional learning material.
After what is now roughly two weeks of being locked down in our houses with no real end in sight yet, I feel that overall moral of my students is at a low and that people really start to miss the little interactions you just don't get from living in Slack all day. Of course, let us all realize that these are minor conveniences at best compared to everyone working in our hospitals right now and that you can't wish for anything more than good health for anyone involved in this crisus.
I felt that a little break from daily remote work and corona news would benefit us all and together with my friend we started exploring the option of running a virtual party. Below is what we did, what worked great and what didn't. I hope you have fun putting your own events together because we certainly did.
First, you need a space for your VR event
We used https://hubs.mozilla.com/ which allows you to create multi-user virtual spaces. Mozilla Hubs is built in A-frame on top of WebVR which is great because the only thing you need to join a space or build one out is a modern browser.
For our party we had a couple of requirements. The space should feel like a real life club and we wanted a live DJ to perform to create a more realistic athmosphere. Luckily, mozilla hubs had a scene we were quite happy with out of the box but if you want, you can create a complete custom scene from scratch by using Spoke. I didn't have the time to do that in such short notice, but I'll definitely dig into Spoke again to recreate our college campus from scratch.
You have a space and now you need music. LIVE music!
A club is not the same without a DJ or live band performing. Mozilla Hubs allows you to embed an unlimited number of 3D objects, some of which you can interact with. Examples include PDF files, your own webcam, GIFs and videos. We started out with a simple YouTube embed which we found really cool to begin with.
We quickly moved on to live YouTube streams and finally settled on what turned out to be a great live experience. One of my students is a great DJ — check out The Raving Nerd — and we asked him to stream a live set with some visuals on Twitch. He used OBS Studio to set up his stream and visuals and we went from there.
Your club needs some custom decorations
One of the things we'll be hanging on our school walls soon is a neon that says "Welcome nerds. You have arrived". After all, we're all nerds (in a good way) where I teach. I wanted that same text to be the first thing people was when they entered our virtual club.
Those of you who are fluent in 3D design can quickly put together a piece of 3D text in Sketchup or any other 3D tool. Blender will let you do the same in just a couple of minutes, even when you are a complete noob like myself. Once you created your custom text or 3D models, you can upload them to Google Poly and add them instantly to your scene in Mozilla Hubs. (Thanks for your help here Linde)
Of course, you can find just about any 3D object straight in Google Poly or SketchFab and use those, like this old skool arcade game for our VIP-room.
So, how does it feel in a VR club with around 50 guests?
Actually, the overall experience was a lot more fun than I initially anticipated. The fact that you can create a world to walk around in and discover things makes it a very social experience. The secret VIP-room we hid behind the DJ's live stream was a fun little extra that visitors could discover. If I decide to set up more events like this, I'll definitely make sure to create lots of spaces that people can go to together to discover and hang out.
Something else we did was ask a couple of my students to work as crew members. When people entered our virtual club they greeted people at the entrance which definitely kicked off the experience in a nice way for most visitors. Meet the crew: Lars, Lisa, Wesley and Daphne.
If you have an event, feel free to add it to our listings page
Chances are there will be more online lockdown parties going on these days and we've made a small page where you can submit your own event. That way, others may be able to join your party based on location, music style or whatever else. You can find the listings page over at https://besafe.social/
The last few weeks I've been working a lot in 3D-space inside my browser and I have become more interested in WebVR, WebGL and related technologies. It's amazing what frameworks like three.js and a-frame allow us to do in a browser these days and it has definitly reinvigorated my love for browser based development of 3D applications. Mozilla has done a terrific job creating the tools to let anyone make up their own space and events in VR-land.
Stay safe. Don't forget to have fun.