#377: From Virtual LAN Parties to Business Meetings with BigScreen VR

hayden-leeDarshan Shankar started BigScreen VR with a deceptively simple premise of wanting to have Virtual LAN parties with other gamers in VR, but using your computer screen as a center point of conversation has catalyzed a wide range of different use cases. In the first 3-4 weeks since their launch, the initial intended audience of gamers are indeed holding virtual LAN parties with 2D and 3D games, but there are also some surprising emergent behaviors. These range from business meetings, co-working rooms, ad-hoc training and technical support, application user testing, cultivation of business partnerships, cultivation of niche communities, and enabling the expression of identity through your collection of digital artifacts. The computer screen is a “social lubricant” that kicks starts a conversation, and allows people to connect with other people through playing, sharing, and exploring.


There are also enough constraints in locomotion and a limit of four people per room that encourages intimate conversations, but there are also some surprising behaviors. People are hanging out in BigScreen playing their own games and in some cases don’t directly connect with anyone else, just as one might go to coffee shops to be able to focus on work. Sometimes playing a 2D game on BigScreen will have a lower resolution, but the ambient presence of other gamers with similar interests and values is enough to have users come back again and again.

I had a chance to do a demo with BigScreen co-founder Hayden Lee, and then catch up with him after talking to some random users within BigScreen. We talked about the wide range of social behaviors, being able to rapidly iterate on a product where the developers can literally watch their users every move via their shared screens, and some of their future plans moving forward. There’s a clear list of features from their users, and because of the wide range of use cases and applications, then I expect to see BigScreen VR become a big player in the future of social VR.

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Music: Fatality & Summer Trip

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. My name is Kent Bye and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. On today's episode, I talked to Hayden Lee about Big Screen VR, which is a social VR application where you're essentially kind of sitting on a couch and just imagine sitting next to three other people and you have your computer screen in front of you and you can see other people's computer screens. And so this is kind of a deceptively simple idea, but yet the power of the different applications of what BigScreen is able to enable is pretty vast and impressive. And it's actually going to be one of the major social VR applications to really look out for because it actually solves a lot of really critical problems. And so I'll be talking to Hayden about all the different ways that people are using big screen VR and then kind of unpacking it a little bit more in the analysis at the end. So that's what we'll be covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. But first, a quick word from our sponsor. Today's episode is brought to you by Unity. Unity has kickstarted this virtual reality revolution by making these easy tools set available for content creators to be able to take their dreams and make them into reality. There's no better way to learn about virtual reality than by getting started today by creating your own experiences. And it's easy with Unity. To learn more information, check out Unity at Unity3D.com. So this interview happened in Berkeley, California on Friday, May 20th, right after I had finished up my coverage at Google I-O. And I decided to meet up with Hayden, who I originally met when he and Sean Whiting had created Converge, which was a social VR application that featured floating heads. And Converge, just for people who don't know, I've interviewed both Sean and Hayden on the podcast and actually had them come down and speak at the Portland Virtual Reality Meetup last year. Converge back on February 25th of 2016 announced on Reddit that they were no longer going to be working on Converge and they were splitting off and Hayden went off to go work with Big Screen with Darshan who had been working on Big Screen for at least a year and a half at that point and Shawn has gone off to be working at Pluto VR, both of them social VR applications. So with that context, I just want to also kind of reiterate just what it feels like when you're actually in big screen, because you have an ability to choose a number of different scenes. But in essence, you're in all of them kind of sitting side by side on a couch with other people as they're looking at their screen. And you have the capability to kind of project your screen onto a big screen that everybody can look at. So that's just a little visual context as we start to just kind of dive in and talk about how people are using the application. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:57.052] Hayden Lee: Hey, my name is Hayden Lee. I've been developing VR for about two years now. And all of last year, I was working on Converge, which is a VR social world. And this year, I've been working on Big Screen, which is a way to bring your desktop into VR and hang out with other people. And I'm working on that with Dushan Shankar.

[00:03:21.768] Kent Bye: Cool. And so, you know, what is this, uh, idea of just kind of like hanging out in a room and you're looking at your computer screen, how'd this sort of come about and then why is that interesting in VR?

[00:03:34.215] Hayden Lee: Yeah, so I can't take credit at all for the idea. Deshawn's been working on this for more than a year and a half now, and I came on in the last three months. It spawned from the ability of social VR to make you feel like you're truly in the same room with somebody. And when you start extrapolating that out, what are the sort of things that you can do with that power? And obviously one of the things is meetings. And then you kind of bring that to VR or bring that to the sort of early adopter crowd of VR and we're all gamers. So what do we want to do? We want to hang out and have a virtual reality LAN party. So that's sort of where it is now and where people just use their desktop to play games, watch videos, hang out, just browse websites, browse Reddit, and generally just hang out as if they're in the same room, but they can be anywhere in the world.

[00:04:26.507] Kent Bye: So I just was in the big screen and with two random friends from Tampa, Florida in a public room, and they were looking at a lot of the R-Vive and there's been recently within this last week, a lot of news about Oculus kind of releasing a new update to their runtime, which then breaks support for Revive, which is a way for Vive owners to be able to get past the DRM of Oculus and be able to play the games on Oculus Home. And so there's a lot of just images and cartoons that we were going through and reading them and just kind of like laughing at the crazy bad PR that's happening. But then they went to our pizza and started just scrolling through pictures of pizza. And I was like, do you guys just like come in here and look at pizza pictures with each other? And they're like, yeah, this is what we do. But it was just like, there's something really weird and funny about like how, you know, if they were together, maybe they would do that. But in VR, they can just kind of like come together and look at really random weird stuff on the internet and talk about it.

[00:05:32.394] Hayden Lee: Yeah we think of it as this sort of social layer to your computer that generally you're just browsing the internet all by yourself and you might be instant messaging somebody or maybe you're on Skype or something but it is really what people just like to do is just hang out and if you're in the same room in real life you'll just show each other like photos. I think just before this interview started I showed you some photos on my phone And just that sharing images, sharing everything, sharing videos, sharing games is just something people really like to do.

[00:06:04.754] Kent Bye: We were also talking at dinner about this transition from the information age into the experiential age. If you look at what big screen is, it's essentially like having an experiential experience, but showing information. So it's like this blend of like going through like different text and images, but that's one component. Another component is that people are actually playing games against each other. But I just talked to a couple of people that they just go in to play while sitting next to someone. They're not even playing the same game. They're just kind of like hanging out and they may not even know each other, but it just gives it more of a social experience of them gaming.

[00:06:41.103] Hayden Lee: Yeah, one of the interesting things I've found from the few weeks since we launched was people just coming, like I might be hanging out in there with like a good friend and we're just playing a game together in a public room and people will come in and not even really interact with us that much but just hang out and enjoy the company of being with somebody else and being with other people that are obviously like-minded because we all are super into VR and we're all gamers So just hanging out and maybe not even engaging the conversation that much but just knowing that there's a couple of people like sitting next to you that are the same as you and that I think that's really comforting to a lot of people and we've also experimented with co-working in there because you can see your desktop you can do anything you would normally be doing such as working as well. So we've experimented where Deshawn did this where he generally likes to work in a Starbucks so there's lots of bustling people around and that calms him. So we tried that in big screen where he'll jump into big screen in a public room and just work and not really engage with anybody but he made a public room called like quiet office and people would jump in and there was a few people just working and just not talking. You can hear their microphone a little bit in the background but they would just hang out and I think three or four people just working and they're all doing completely different stuff but it's like a co-working space in the metaverse.

[00:08:05.388] Kent Bye: That is really wild. I mean, because, you know, some people do find that. I know that when I go to a coffee shop or tea shop, I will go there and it'll help me really focus and just something about having the pressure of other people around me that just gives me that extra focus. And so using virtual reality to get in there and just be able to just focus on what you're working on. But at this point, it seems like everybody else can see each other's screen. Is there any like privacy settings in that way?

[00:08:32.865] Hayden Lee: Yeah, so you can turn off your own screen, you can mute yourself, you can turn off other people's screens, and you can mute other people. And then if people are trolling or something, or doing really bad stuff, you can report them as well. So we added those features in a little bit ago, and it seems to be pretty calm generally. Sometimes people If they just came in and they don't know how to use the app yet, they'll make their screen really too big and it'll cover your screen. So there are little quirks like that, but that'll even out over time and we'll get better at designing experiences better for it.

[00:09:05.436] Kent Bye: So you're having a big screen in front of you that you're able to look at, but you can also project it on this absolutely huge screen. Maybe you could talk a little bit about the sizes of the different screens that you have.

[00:09:16.123] Hayden Lee: Yeah, so you can change your screen from as small as 12 inches wide to sort of this 50-foot screen out in front of you. And you can be floating out in space with this 50-foot screen with your friends next to you. They can make their screen really big, too. There's also a presentation screen, where one screen that is big and in front of everybody, just like a projector in real life. So you can have your small little screen, but then you can also project to the big screen. Yeah, and that's an easy way to share what you're doing. We've also, we've used it for giving presentations in there already. And you can sort of have your own screen that is maybe easier to use and closer to you, but then you have the big screen that kind of everybody can see really easily.

[00:10:01.755] Kent Bye: So, yeah. And it seems like you have a pretty small limit of how many people can be in the same room, just four people. Maybe could talk a bit about that number and why did you set it at that?

[00:10:13.120] Hayden Lee: Well, I'm not sure if this is from personal taste from me and Dushan, but I know that I prefer that sort of setting where I'm with a couple of really close friends and we're just hanging out as if we're in the same room together. We'll definitely experiment and we're really looking forward to experimenting with larger numbers. Honestly, the number 4 was just a random sort of number that will work. We didn't want to start too high because we've got to make sure all the technology behind the streaming is working at launch as well as we can. We didn't want to start crazy high and we definitely know 2 is too low. Four is just kind of a random number, and we honestly haven't even tested the system with more than four people in one room, but eventually you could have these worlds where there's somebody giving a presentation with a hundred people watching that same screen, and that's all totally doable.

[00:11:10.927] Kent Bye: So having spent a lot of time in Converge, which is essentially like this open world where you can go anywhere, you had different emergent behavior like circling around a campfire, you know, I think is one story from there. But, you know, here you're basically in the same room locked in and you're looking straightforward. And so tell me a little bit about what you've found in terms of what kind of social interactions are different between those two.

[00:11:35.915] Hayden Lee: Yeah, so one of the really interesting social interactions is the intimacy that comes from seeing somebody else's screen. So that's why right now you're all in a line across from each other, so that it's easy for you to put out your screen, move it a bit out further away from everybody, make it bigger, and then everybody can see it really easily. So just like you have this presence with social VR and with VR in general, there's this really interesting interaction that comes from being able to actually see somebody's screen and you kind of, you get to know them better. I noticed Kent before when you were trying it, you were commenting on somebody else's wallpaper and they were commenting on your wallpaper and suddenly these things that you thought were like really personal private things, you're sharing that with other people. And being able to see a sort of window into somebody's life, that's really what your desktop is. And when you pull up a game that you thought that only you liked, and then you pull it up and somebody else next to you is like, oh, I love that game. there's something really special about that as well as the opposite where you pull up a game and you're showing it to somebody and nobody else in the room has seen it before and like everyone else is like wow this is really interesting and suddenly you just it's really easy to form friendships in there and we're definitely noticing that already. I think from the social perspective, we've got a long way to go as far as feeling like you're actually in the room. The avatars are very simple right now. Basically a blue floating head with not too many features or anything animating or anything like that. But we're working on giving it the whole social VR work that's definitely, definitely needed. So I think that'll come over time and we're already experimenting with a lot of things around that.

[00:13:20.128] Kent Bye: And so what have you been using big screen for then?

[00:13:23.787] Hayden Lee: So I probably spent the most hours playing Rocket League, which for people that don't know is a, it's soccer with cars. So you're in third person, you drive around a car and you can jump and the cars have rockets, obviously. and you can hit the soccer ball into the goal. That's the point of the game. So I used to play that online with a friend, and now we basically play in VR, and we just play like we used to, but instead of using TeamSpeak or Skype or whatever, we just use big screen. And we've spent many, many hours. Sometimes we'll be in there for six hours at a time, just playing different games. But yeah, generally Rocket League, and we're playing on the same team against other people, What's interesting is sometimes or a lot of the time you're not actually looking at the other person's screen even though it's streaming and we've built all that cool tech to be able to do that. A lot of time you're just looking at your own screen just playing a game and then every now and again you get to look over and say oh like you start to notice weird things that you didn't notice when you were playing online over Skype or something where At the end of a game you get a trophy for winning or losing or for... yeah, you might win a little trophy and you previously couldn't know what the other person got. Everyone gets a different trophy at the end of the game and suddenly you notice these little things where, oh, I can look across and see what you got. There's just like these little things that are super nice and subtle, but then also obviously when you score a goal and you lift your head back and you start yelling and you just get a way more visceral feeling than you do over a TeamSpeak or a Skype. And that's like generation one. So we're super excited about making the, as I said before, the custom avatars and everything like that better. But yeah, that's mainly playing video games, then just hanging out. A lot of the time I'm helping users get to know the product or learning about what people want. One really interesting thing is that you can see where people are struggling in the app because I can see their screen. So there's some quirks around how we set the default mic and speakers right now. And so a lot of people come in with like the wrong microphone setup so we can't hear them. and it's very obvious because they're trying to talk and nothing comes out and they can hear you because they're nodding or crossing their head. So I can look at their screen and I can say, hey, go click in the bottom right, click on the volume button, right click there, yep, yep, you're doing that right. Now go up there on the left, set your default recording device. And I think that's like a lot of the people's first kind of experience when they go in there and that's, it's an experience that straight away shows you the power of screen sharing and being in the same room with somebody. that you could not do that in any other way or through any other medium. And yeah, I think that's just a really interesting experience that people are having and an interesting way that we've learned from using this over the last three or four weeks.

[00:16:14.147] Kent Bye: Yeah, that's really interesting because you're basically like virtual tech support, but you can see exactly what they're saying and be able to walk them through. I mean, I could imagine a time where there'd be virtual rooms for people who are just technical support, where you just hop in and you get any of your questions answered by just popping in and someone just being able to help you just like right there.

[00:16:35.328] Hayden Lee: Yeah. So on the first or second day we launched, we had somebody who opened up a room just called, I think it was Mike help as a microphone help. And they would just help everyone like help everyone set up their mics and make sure it was working. And there was just an open room and you could just pop in and just be like, and he'd be like, Hey, I think he had like audacity and a couple of things open. So he could help you with sort of any problem related to audio. And we've seen that a lot. Actually. There's often days where people are just helping people with when we push a new update or it's like general tech support, but it's also fun and social. So.

[00:17:05.687] Kent Bye: Well I had somebody go to the voicesofvr.com website and there's things that I basically put stuff up and I don't ever look at it or use it and then I had him just like oh go back to episode 355 and he scrolls down and they're like there's no link there and I was like oh god. and then it's just sort of like oh it goes up and then he clicks on the podcast archive and then he has to scroll all the way down and I was just like oh my god it was like so painful for me to watch him use it because I know that there's stuff that I need to do to update the website to make it more usable just it's been falling pretty low on the priority list as I'm putting out a podcast every day but It made it really real for me to sit there and watch him struggle with that. Or it was more of a struggle for me, because it was like, I just know it should be a lot easier than that to do that. So I just imagine a time where people are going in and doing user testing with watching people use their website. And instead of doing usability testing, you could potentially even do eye tracking at some point to see what people actually look at. But that seems like a pretty clear use case as well in terms of just building websites and then seeing what actual real people do when they're using it.

[00:18:15.721] Hayden Lee: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's definitely one of the things we notice early on is this being able to see how people are using the product for ourselves. But that can also be applied to anything. So you could, as you said, checking out a website or sort of this virtual tech support. think we've only seen like the tip of the iceberg of what people use it for and that seems to be one of the things that people are well that it's definitely gonna be good for and from our perspective it's super useful as a company as big screen we can learn like what people want really really fast and also see how they're using the product so we can see which buttons are hard to press right now there's an issue with the back button it's a pretty unintuitive where it is and we notice a lot of people they don't know that they can go back and they're confused for a bit so we know that we need to fix that so both from the UX standpoint we can iterate really really fast because we see people struggling to use it And then from the knowing what our users want perspective, we can also just talk to our users in our app, which is super, super useful. Deshawn and I both have had an experience with Y Combinator, their startup incubator in the Bay Area. And one of their mottos is, write code, talk to users. And we can literally, in our products, we can write our code for our app and talk to our users in the app. we think so far that that's led to us focusing on the right things hopefully that sort of help us out in the long run but yeah we'll see about that but yes it's an interesting quirk about working in social VR is you get so much time with people using your product as opposed to a website or something where you put it up there and then people sort of experience it in their own time and you don't have any interaction with them while they're using it. I've been working in social VR for two years now, so I don't even know what that would be like. I can't imagine that.

[00:20:09.370] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think that, you know, being able to just pop into different rooms and strike up different conversations, my brief experience in doing that just now is that, you know, that seems like a great way to kind of peek into some of the biggest hardcore gamers who have the VR headsets just kind of pop in and see what they're playing, see what they're talking about. and kind of just listen into conversations or to directly ask them questions. And it seems like there's a lot of not pressure to talk to the other people because you could just go in there and just look at your own screen, but, you know, kind of like overhear the conversations, but yet still directly engage in people. Or I imagine also just hold a meeting in there. I think it would be very useful to do enterprise meetings with people as the penetration of this technology moves forward. You know, how helpful would it be to kind of have these different meetings by staying in one place, but kind of like very quickly being able to get into the same virtual space and share each other's screens to be able to share whatever project you're working on.

[00:21:09.750] Hayden Lee: Yeah, it's the way we've built it in that screen sharing is just by default, I think makes it super easy to have that experience that you want in a meeting where you want to show people what you're working on or show people your presentation or what have you. We, I mean, we've used it ourselves for when I was first coming onto Bigscreen, transitioning between Converge and Bigscreen and working out what I was going to do next and sort of talking to Deshawn and learning about the product. Like we were in Bigscreen for like eight hours at a time, just talking and kind of having these semi-meetings about what we're going to do next and like how this could work out. And so that was like my first exposure to it was through these meetings. And I think as the resolution gets better, as it becomes even more intuitive, where you get your hands in there, we were trying to push an update with the Vive, where you have these laser pointers, you can see other people's hands, and you can really interact like you were in the same room, where you can say, hey, this line of code over here, that's what I was talking about. And you really need to fix that button over there, and you can actually point to it with your hand, which is something that is While it's pretty rudimentary even still, like today I think in a few years this is really going to get to the stage where it really doesn't matter where somebody is in the world and you can work with them as if they're living in the same house as you. I think that co-working is going to be absolutely huge in this over time. I think there's definitely barriers right now with the spread of the adoption of the headset and getting it into the workplace and things. But I think in the long run, that's a super exciting thing.

[00:22:54.042] Kent Bye: So what were some of the lessons that you got from working on Converge that you felt like you were adding into big screen?

[00:23:00.902] Hayden Lee: So I think one of the main things we noticed with Converge was the presence that social VR gives you is enough to engage people in a social experience. So what I'm trying to say is that people just want to hang out. Humans are social beings and we just want to hang out on a Friday night. We want to have a beer and sit down with our friends. And we saw that a ton in Converge where every Thursday or Friday night people would jump in, grab a few beers and just hang out in Converge with, really we had a couple of screens that you could put web content on like YouTube and a campfire. And people would just sit around this campfire for hours. and just hang out and talk and just shoot the shit. And we're sort of seeing that in big screen too, where yes, you've got your desktop in there, but you don't have to be using it all the time. That's not the only way to use it. A lot of people just put it to the side and they use it as, I like to call it a social lubricant, in that you have the screen there so that if you're bored of the conversation or there's a lull in the conversation, you can grab your screen and look at reddit or browse something while instead of just having an awkward silence or what have you but a lot of the time you can just hang out and talk to each other and that'll get better and better as the avatars and social presence gets better but A lot of the time you're just hanging out, you're just being in the presence of somebody else and the screen then just enables you to kind of keep the conversation going, sort of learn more about the other person as I was saying before about that intimacy of looking into their life, into their computer and their desktop papers, like simple things like that. So yeah, that's something we totally saw in Converge, where people were just hanging out, just talking. There wasn't a ton of different things to do in Converge, and people were just still spending hours and hours and hours. So I think that's a real credit to social VR and the power of how engaging social VR can be, even with such rudimentary technologies such as fluting head in around a campfire. And yeah, I think that's definitely a big lesson I learned and we're like definitely taking that across.

[00:25:09.334] Kent Bye: Yeah. One way to think about that in some ways is that your computer, your screen, all of your games that you own are sort of like these digital artifacts that you have that are in some ways reflecting and representing your values and what you believe in the world and some aspect of your identity. And so It's allowing people to use this digital expression of who they are by sharing their screen and then they can present it in any way that they want. They could bring up and play different games or they could have different launch icons on their desktop or a background image. That's kind of something that they really resonate with. And so it feels like some way for people to connect to each other in that way of like being able to share your digital life with each other.

[00:25:55.356] Hayden Lee: Yeah, absolutely. It's just a window into somebody's world. It's like stepping into somebody's house. How much better do you know somebody after the first time you've gone to their house? And you see what they have on the wall. You see the movies that they like because the posters they have on their wall. And it wasn't something we thought a ton about before launching, but it's definitely something I've realized afterwards in how well you get to know somebody by seeing their desktop and being able to express yourself through your desktop and it sounds really weird because like people are moving away from desktops right we're in the post pc era right now but i don't think that's true of pc gamers to a gamer that's their life that's completely how they express themselves and now you can do it with other people around you, as if you do when you're having a LAN party where you lug your computer in a wheelbarrow to a hall or to somebody's house with tens or hundreds of other people and you get to have that experience of, wow, I'm with people like me now. But why not just do that in VR where you don't have to lug your computer to your friend's house or maybe you don't know too many people around you that are, you move into a new location and you don't know too many people that are like you and so now you can jump in VR and you've got a ton of people that are all super into VR and like the same games as you and yeah, have a great time.

[00:27:20.167] Kent Bye: And is it, for some people, is the screen and big screen actually physically bigger than their monitor on their desktop? Maybe you could talk a bit about that.

[00:27:28.124] Hayden Lee: Yeah so from a technical standpoint yeah some of the people that use big screen already prefer to use big screen than their plasma tv. I won't say that the quality because of the resolution of the headset the quality is going to be necessarily as good but the social presence and being with other people just puts it over the edge it puts it over the top where Suddenly it's, yes, the resolution may be a bit lower, but I would rather do this with other people than just sit in my house with my expensive TV and watch it all by myself. And at the same time, a lot of people aren't lucky enough to even have an expensive TV. I remember back in college, I never had a TV. My roommates definitely did, but I would never use my TV. We didn't even like pay for cable or anything. It was just, especially when you're in a dorm room. So this is giving you a, as big a screen as you want, even if you're in your dorm room. And an interesting thing is you also get privacy on that screen. So if you're in a dorm room, you might not want to be showing what you're looking at to your roommates, especially at night when you're like, everyone's trying to go to sleep and you can just hang out and watch a movie in VR. Maybe you would be really disrupting your roommate because it's really bright and you're disrupting them if they can't get to sleep and now you can just put on a VR headset and just sort of chill and they won't even know that you're hanging out in VR.

[00:28:48.310] Kent Bye: What have been some of your favorite stories of how people have been using big screen so far?

[00:28:52.835] Hayden Lee: So when we first launched, I think within a week, I had this experience where I was sitting in the lounge room within big screen. And to my right, there was somebody who'd hacked or he'd worked out that you could open project cars through Oculus Home and alt tab between big screen and project cars. So he could alt tab between VR experiences. which was crazy and in big screen you could still see his head moving left and right as he was driving this car in this other world that he was in and he could still talk to us and he said he would use that to where he would use big screen purely as team speak so he was in there with another person and they were both playing Project Cars racing against each other but then they could both alt tab and then look to their left to see each other.

[00:29:38.862] Kent Bye: Oh wow so they're they're in VR like they're in an immersive VR experience in Project Cars but they alt tab into

[00:29:47.532] Hayden Lee: the big screen run from the steam but from within the big screen they're running oculus home in order to run run project cars yeah it was a mess but they were doing that and they could race in project cars but there's no like vr lobby in project cars so they could when they finish the race they could alt tab and then see each other again So that was really cool. And then in that same session, to my left was somebody who had hacked a big screen to get Google Cardboard working with big screen. So they were emulating the Vive on their PC and then streaming what their PC could see to their phone and then running Google Cardboard. And the phone was sending the accelerometer and IMU data back to the computer to emulate the head movement. So That was pretty eye-opening. We hadn't dreamed of using big screen with Google Cardboard for at least a year. So that was pretty crazy and surreal within a week to just see what people had managed to use it for.

[00:30:46.836] Kent Bye: Wait, so you're able to emulate a Vive and then stream that to a mobile phone and Google Cardboard and then experience big screen through Google Cardboard.

[00:30:56.760] Hayden Lee: Yeah. Yeah. So these people were, I think this one guy in particular was using unity in cardboard and then he was just sitting by his computer so he still could use his keyboard and mouse, but he was wearing a cardboard or a little bit fancier cardboard with a head strap. And yeah, he was using an Android phone to use unity, which is pretty crazy. Wow.

[00:31:22.028] Kent Bye: So it sounds like people were just trying to figure out all sorts of ways that they could hack the big screen in order to do what they wanted to do at their computer, but in VR.

[00:31:31.465] Hayden Lee: Yeah, and the extrapolation from this is that one of the crazy things we've realized we can use big screen for, and we haven't really experimented too much with it, but I'm sure we'll be showing it off soon, is that you could be in a game like Space Pirate Trainer, and you could be streaming what you see, or the 2D equivalent of what you see to the big screen, so everybody can see what you see. but then you can also be standing in the middle of the lounge room within big screen so that people can see you like moving your controllers around and moving your head around as if they were in the same physical location watching you play a vive game but you can be in big screen watching them play a vive game so it's super hard to describe it i'm not sure if i did a good job at it but when we should make some videos of that that's going to be pretty nuts that I mean, everyone loves watching people play games in the Vive, so being able to be in a 3D world and get that experience too is going to be pretty nuts.

[00:32:26.700] Kent Bye: Yeah, and right now big screen is literally just your screen, but I can imagine a time in the future where that moves to more of an immersive environment with like 3D objects.

[00:32:34.953] Hayden Lee: Yeah, absolutely. That's something we haven't experimented with a ton too much, but there's already cases where we absolutely want that, where you want to have Spotify not as a window on your screen, but as a radio to your, like sitting next to you on the couch. So yeah, that's totally going to happen.

[00:32:54.838] Kent Bye: So what's one of your most vivid or favorite memories of you being in big screen?

[00:33:01.166] Hayden Lee: I think it's thinking you were spending half an hour or an hour hanging out with somebody and then you take off the headset and suddenly it's pitch black everywhere outside and in your apartment because you don't need lights on if you're in VR which is super creepy but it's true you can just you pull up the headset and everything's just pitch black and you're like oh crap I didn't turn on my lights this evening like and it's 1am and it's like oh wow I don't need lights anymore. But I think I have one friend in particular who I was mentioning earlier, we jump in and we play Rock Elite together and we really jive and I think we've gotten better friends because of big screen through just hanging out and playing video games or showing each other a new code or anything that we would do if we were in the same room but now we can just do it in VR. I think those moments are sort of the moments that I most enjoy. Just hanging out with like a friend or two and just sort of doing what you would do if you were in the same room in real life. Especially because I just moved to a new city. I just moved to Berkeley and I don't know like a ton of people around here yet. So being able to connect with people that are across the other side of America as if I was in the same room is something that's super, super powerful. And, yeah, I think it's generally helped, like, my relationships with my friends that otherwise I probably would have just become, like, less good friends, just like what normally happens with everybody else in the world, where you move away and you become less good friends. I think the glimpses that I've already seen with some of my friends, where we stay in really, really good contact through big screen, like, seeing those glimpses already is something that I think is super powerful, because that's what I'd really like to see in the in the sort of long run where people are connected through VR and don't have that feeling of oh somebody else is in another country and they just sort of drift out of your life. I mean I'm originally from Australia and so that's a very like visceral feeling for me where I have this whole friendship group in Australia that were just one day just completely cut off and all you have is like back then you have Facebook to talk and Skype every now and again So yes, seeing that that glimpse is right already right in the first couple of weeks of launching is something that probably means the most to me.

[00:35:23.926] Kent Bye: And finally, what do you see is kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what it might be able to enable?

[00:35:30.368] Hayden Lee: I think I've answered this already and I think I said the matrix last time. I think that idea of distance disappearing from your friendships, and professional relationships as well, where there's this visceral feeling where somebody's in another country, you feel different about that person. They are somewhat different to your friends that live next to you, your neighbors, or the people in your city. I think in the next couple of decades it's going to get to a point where you can live anywhere, work with anybody, and be friends with anybody that you want to, in the sense of it doesn't matter where they are. Physical location is not going to be a problem for people. if you can get the presence of being with somebody then why do we need offices why do we need to all have to live in san francisco if some of the people in the company don't like san francisco or why do we all have to live in new york because like why do we have to work there just because that was where the founders started the company or that's where the customers are or what have you. If you can really live wherever you want to live because you can work with anybody through VR, I think that's going to be a super powerful and different world that we live in. But I think that's totally going to happen.

[00:36:51.456] Kent Bye: So anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say?

[00:36:55.138] Hayden Lee: I think that's good. Keep kicking ass, Kent.

[00:36:57.370] Kent Bye: Okay, great. Well, thank you so much. Cool. Thank you. And so that was Hayden Lee of Big Screen VR, which is completely free on Steam, where you can use it on both a HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift. And so I had a lot of different takeaways from this interview. First of all, I was just kind of amazed at all the different diversity of different ways that people were using this application. and my experience of going into the app and talking to different people as they were using it is that people just really loved it. They loved to be able to go in there and start to play video games with their friends or just kind of almost think of it as a internet cafe for gamers who they may not even be interacting with each other directly, but it's just a space for gamers to go into and play their games and socially hang out with other people, kind of like this virtual LAN party. So it's bringing this ethic of the virtual LAN party into VR and enabling all these really interesting aspects of social presence and communication. And so as I was thinking about it, I realized that big screen VR really fits into my model of the human experience of VR. And One of my hypotheses is that the more that a VR experience is able to encompass different dimensions of the human experience, then the more successful that'll be. And looking at those 12 different domains, there's a pretty clear application for at least 10 of those domains. And we talked about at least eight or nine of them on this podcast. So let me just kind of go through them quickly as kind of a way of unpacking and making sense about why I think big screen is so compelling and why I think it's going to continue to do really well with its growth in user base. So first of all, at the core, Bigscreen is about cultivating social presence. Now, I have this idea that there's kind of like four different types of presence. One is embodied presence, where you're really in a body doing things. Another one is active presence, where you're actually doing something in an experience where you're kind of manipulating objects or doing some sort of specific task. And then there's emotional presence, which is a little bit more about engaging your emotions and narrative. And I don't think big screen is necessarily emphasizing any of these three other dimensions, and it's really trying to focus on social presence. And over time, they're going to be improving the embodied presence, which I think is going to improve the expressiveness that people were going to be able to have with different types of avatars and motions and being able to speak. But if you kind of look at it, they're really focusing on social presence first, which is to constrain any type of movement. So there's no active presence. You're not be able to move around and kind of like explore a world. Big screen is not about that. It's trying to really focus and hone in on social presence. And from that social presence, they're able to unlock all these other different domains of the human experience. So First of all is communication, where you're able to just kind of have these conversations with complete strangers about your expression of your digital identity, which in big screen is your computer screen. So there's virtual goods and resources and in big screen, this is your computer screen. You're basically giving a window into your digital life, which in a lot of ways in big screen is an expression of your digital identity. and your underlying value system. And so it's kind of like this avatar in some ways. It's an externalized version of your avatar. It's like your version of your identity is like using your virtual goods as your avatar and your identity. And so people are able to kind of have small little conversations using your screen as a social lubricant, as Hayden said, but through that communication starts to increase the level of social presence, but also that communication is kind of spread out through all the other different domains of human experience. So for example, whereas you may be just sitting and playing a game on your own, you can go into big screen and start to hang out with other people and really get the social component, which is another domain, which is this cultivation of community through building relationships over time. And so being able to play 2D games, 3D games, to be able to just go and cruise different subreddits is another form of just entertainment. And so BigScreen is really making it pretty dead simple to experience this with your friends, stranger, or people that you are close to, such as your family. And so another interesting application of big screen is that it sounds like people are already starting to use it for business meetings to be able to stand up and you're not actually standing and presenting to people. You're actually kind of sitting to their side, but you can project your screen up onto the big screen and be able to go through a PowerPoint presentation or have business meetings. And so another different domain is a partnerships and business partnerships specifically. as Hayden said, Darshan and Hayden were able to go into big screen and start to look at each other's screens and collaborate in a way where they're actually kind of just forming this business which at the beginning they were distributed and working remotely and they were able to use big screen to really eat their own dog food in a lot of ways of being able to you know, use whatever ticketing system and Kanban boards and scrums and long extended eight-hour meetings of just co-working with each other. And so they're able to use BigScreen to cultivate their business partnership in that way. And it's really interesting to hear how Darshan and other users are just using BigScreen as kind of like this virtual internet cafe where you can just co-work with other people. And the beautiful thing about co-working is that you're able to start to ask questions for other people. And if you get stuck on something, then you're not stuck with having to just Google it. And so some of the more mundane daily grind tasks of updating your website or doing some just brute force work that's really no fun to do, you can just make it a lot more social and enjoyable by getting together with other people who have to do boring daily grind work and just co-work within big screen VR, which is something that is starting to already happen. And so looking at higher education and teaching and mentoring, it sounded like people were just setting up these rooms where they could start to help people by looking at their screen and help them do technical debugging and fixing problems to be able to actually participate within big screen. And so I think the applications for mentoring and teaching and higher education are going to be pretty vast within just a simple program like this where you could do a lot with being able to have study groups about different topics within big screen VR. And then finally, it wasn't explicitly mentioned within big screen VR, but I think in the future, we're going to start to see families start to come together. And so connecting to your relatives through the computer screen, once virtual reality gets out there and to the level of penetration where it needs to be, I think this is going to be yet another killer application of something like big screen. You just imagine going through family photos or In some ways, our digital identity is something that we are closer to sharing with our friends and social peer group or maybe our romantic partners. But yet, I can imagine being able to watch movies or live sports or using the internet as a social lubricant to be able to have different discussions with your family. As VR starts to get out there more into the PCs and the hardware so that your family could actually do that, I don't think that there's probably very many families that are out there yet that, you know, an entire family having all the different technology to be able to really explore that yet. And so I think big screen is pretty, like I said, pretty simple on the surface. But yeah, there's so many different applications, it'll be really interesting to see which domain they start to really focus on to be able to, you know, if they start to really hone in on any of these specific domains, if it's going to be gaming or these business enterprise applications or whatever it ends up being, I think that they've already started to see pretty engaged users and people just, you know, going in there and spending a lot of time. It's something that is kind of unlocking something about an expression of identity and social communication and really kind of a confluence of all these different domains of the human experience that I personally experienced by checking out big screen VR and I think it's going to be a pretty big deal moving forward. So that's kind of like my thoughts on big screen, really excited about it and actually looking forward to kind of dipping in there and having different rooms and connecting to different voices of VR listeners there. If you are interested, go to my website and sign up on my email list. I'm going to start to try to do more virtual meetups and meetings with people in these different types of social experiences to really kind of test them out with, you know, trying to see what their strengths and weaknesses are for doing different types of communication and social VR and really cultivating and exploring the latest frontiers of social presence within virtual reality. So with that, thanks for listening. And if you do enjoy this, then please do spread the word to your friends and family. And yeah, please do consider becoming a contributor to my Patreon at patreon.com slash Voices of VR.

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