On May 1st 2020 I organised the first AI Meet VR event in Mozilla Hubs. I started organising it two weeks ago to see how a virtual get-together would look and feel like. After experiencing it, I have to say that I’m impressed with how it went! In this blog post I will show some pictures and will write what it felt like.
Every magnificent event starts with brilliant speakers. Finding four amazing speakers went easier than I expected. They were all curious how such an event would look and feel like and were thus willing to come speak. A huge thanks to Lloyd, Kim, Kimberly and Nic for preparing their amazing presentation and giving an interesting engaging talk!
All presentations took place with minor hiccups. At a normal conference one can prepare by testing microphones and laptops well in advance (although there also many things go wrong). During the AI Meet VR meet-up everything worked out well, although some people had a bit of technical difficulties. Contrary to normal conferences, you now have to ask people to mute themselves. You also have to put up your own webcam screen, which others can change by accident while you are presenting.
The most important thing is how people feel during a presentation. The speakers all reported that it felt like giving a normal presentation, even when you are giving your presentation to a couple of panda avatars. The audience also felt more present to the presentations than one normally feels during a ‘normal’ Skype/Zoom/Teams presentation. It feels easier to keep your attention at a presentation if you can walk around, see a speakers avatar, and have other virtual audience members around you. That said: at some point someone got distracted and created a massive unicorn outside of the conference room. It was a funny distraction to all of us.
That said: there are some things about Mozilla Hubs which should really improve to make virtual meetups a better experience. To start with: I could not load the room on my Oculus Quest when over 5 people were in the room. Only one person attended the entire time with a virtual reality device, which is less than I hoped for a conference in virtual reality. It would also be good if there was a dedicated place to present in the room, to make sure that nobody could accidentally move or resize a screen. Last but not least, I had a few issues before the event when nothing would load on my laptop. I guess the servers had a bit of a hiccup, something I hope hosting a next event on Hubs Cloud will prevent.
Last but not least: I asked attendees whether they would be interested in attending a second event. Many people replied positively, which means I will host a second edition soon! If you are interested: please register in this Google Document.