#171: Design Principles for Social VR: The Evolution of Convrge

When Shawn Whiting and Hayden Lee decided to create a social VR application, they decided to create the simplest minimal viable product. It was literally just a cube and a name that was tied to head movements, but they had a dance party where over 50 people showed up for at least a half hour each. Even though they were simple blocks, knowing that they were tied to the movements to a real human being on the other side proved to be extremely compelling.

That is a perfect story that encapsulates the iterative approach and rapid feedback that has been the driving philosophy for Convrge. Known for it’s minimalist floating heads, Convrge has adopted a low-poly aesthetic that has proven to be lightweight and super compelling.

Shawn and Hayden have found a number of ways to keep users engaged with social applications ranging from dance parties, VR developer talks with notable speakers from the VR circuit, virtual campfire hangout sessions, YouTube watching parties, and watching livestream events of either VR meetups or breaking news and press conferences from VR companies.

As a particularly salient example, here’s a reaction video of over 73 people in VR watching the livestream of the Oculus CV1 press conference where it was announced that the Rift would be shipping with Xbox controllers. This was clearly disappointing on some level for the VR enthusiasts who really wanted to see 6DOF controllers ship with the Rift, but then there’s another moment later in the video where Palmer announces the Oculus Touch, and there’s clearly a lot of excitement that this is something that is coming in the future. Note that there’s a recording error in having two tabs open as to why there’s an echo in the sound.

Shawn and Hayden even were livestreaming the VR mixer afterparty onto the theater screen in Convrge while at the same time projecting that scene onto a screen at the party. Here’s an excerpt of a little dancing that I did at that party that Hayden mentions within the interview

Convrge has also recently added the ability for users to play games with each other in VR, and that was by request. They talk about some of their future plans, and what some of the most popular feature requests have been.

Finally, Shawn gives the advice to anyone creating a social VR application to get people involved as quickly as possible so that you can start to get their feedback for what they want. In other words, don’t spend a year and a half developing a polished social experience without ever once having people involved with using it.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the community and Convrge platform continues to evolve, and encourage anyone who hasn’t made time to check it out to definitely drop by sometime. It’s a very welcoming and open community.

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