Platforms for People #5

Briefs on Social VR in the Metaverse

Tom Nickel
5 min readOct 27, 2021
Image by David Denton

Social VR Platforms . . . . . . People . . . . . . Companies . . . . . . Society

from Oculus Venues

Dalai Lama Meets Kid Cudi at the Virtual Cineplex

October 24, 2021

At least he was in Theater One, with a lobby full of people and no popcorn.

from Flickr

Kid Cudi was in Theater Two.

There was Anime across the way and Martial Arts next to that.

There was even Mature Content and Nature videos narrated by Sir David Attenborough. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

While the CEO is promoting a Metaverse, his Venues are serving up Brand Names in a Mall-like setting.

I liked Kid Cudi.

I started with him because I was early for the spiritual Brand Name that drew me to Venues. Theater Two was the Moon or someplace Moon-like. Kid Cudi had his own Moon Platform with colored laser lights arcing around and disco balls spinning over his head.

He was 2D Holo-there. Not an avatar. They green-screened him and we saw Kid Cudi rapping away as a sort of ghostly guy. It wasn’t hi-res.

The Dalai Lama was.

When it was show time in Theater One, I spawned my way over and there he was on a really big screen. We weren’t there with HHDL and HHDL wasn’t there with us. He was on-screen.

No cutting edge effects were employed, unless you consider live broadcast-quality video from Dharamshala itself a thing of wonder. There were two cameras, for a straight-on shot and an occasional pull-back to show us his media room setting.

Both views were crisp and colorful and after not too long, kind of boring. We are not used to watching anyone, no matter how holy they are, just sitting there speaking in another language while we wait for translated Buddhist phrases spoken a thousand times already.

There were other avatars with me in the theater watching and listening to the Dalai Lama and his translator. It was a movie theater; there was nothing else to do. We didn’t interact.

I teleported to the balcony, where I could look down and see all the other avatars. I don’t know if anyone was mesmerized to be in his presence, or if most others were having more or less the same reaction as I was. It seemed very ordinary.

I left the Dalai Lama event, and back in the Venues lobby there were lots more avatars just hanging out in little groups gabbing and having fun with each other than I saw in any of the shows.

From what I could hear, it was more of a Kid Cudi crowd than a Dalai Lama crowd, but they weren’t in Theater Two watching Kid Cudi. They were engaged in “unstructured interaction” in the lobby; ie, having fun with each other.

While research-driven, algorithm-implemented Virtual Worlds are slowly growing, no platform has “taken off” in the way some social media has. The most common VR article is the ‘Why-Is-VR-Stalled?’ article.

‘Stalled’ only has meaning when measured against some other growth path that was entirely hypothetical. Those projections were wrong. VR is only stalled relative to incorrect thinking, caused by a laundry-list of factors which mostly come down to corporate imperatives.

By some nutty dataset I could almost certainly project with >75% confidence that an aggregate program featuring Popular Music, a Spiritual Leader, Anime, Martial Arts, Light Sex, and Nature films — all offered for Free — would draw thousands of VR headset owners worldwide. In fact, I’ll bet someone did. They were wrong. There were < 100 avatars present at any moment.

And here’s the thing — fifty of them were in the Lobby having the best time of all.

Watching performers like Kid Cudi I’d never see in the other world is an unexpected VR benefit I hadn’t thought of much. I didn’t stay and watch because I’m a Kid Cudi fan. I watched because I’m not and don’t expect I ever will be.

Seeing the Dalai Lama at home in Dharamsala was interesting for a bit. It was ostensibly an event about education for teachers. There were a few live questions. All very formal, even though he is a remarkably informal Spiritual Leader.

I didn’t last two minutes in the other shows.

Being with people, forming real relationships over time — this is what social VR is about. Creating simple opportunities for people to get together socially and even build their own places to be social in — this is what will encourage more people to participate in something new.

However, corporate imperatives may speak louder than the people projected to become users.

Plus there is another powerful force on the planet with its own distinct vision for Social VR. The Communist Party of China is not compromising in its views, which raises the question of how truly global any Social VR platform will be and how truly interconnected any one Metaverse will be allowed to be.

How Many Metaverses? is the topic of Platforms for People #6.

/Platforms for People #5 — previous issue, Platforms for People #4

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The Social VR Platforms, Companies, People, and Society tabs at the top of the article are linked to our growing base of very brief, right-to-the-point pieces about social aspects of the Metaverse.

Platforms for People is currently produced by Tom Nickel. I welcome contributions and expect that a publishing collective will emerge.



Tom Nickel

Learning Technologist focusing on VR, Video, and Mortality … producer of Less Than One Minute and 360 degree videos