#968: Virtual Market 5 is an Inspiring, Community-Driven Artist Expo in VRChat with Worldbuilding & Avatar Innovations

Virtual Market 5 opens today December 18th, 2020 at 6p PST (Dec 19th at 11a JST), and will run until January 10th at 6a PST (11p JST). It will feature over 1500 VR artists and creators in 30+ worlds in VRChat that features avatars, meshes, clothes, music, prefabs, shaders, tutorials, and all sorts of other virtual goods for VR enthusiasts and immersive creators. It’s the impressive virtual expo of the year with some of the most awe-inspiring worlds and virtual experiences.

The first Virtual Market (aka Vket) started in the Japanese VRChat community on August 26, 2018, and featured around 80 artists and creators. HIKKY is a Japanese company that’s been running the virtual markets, and so there’s been a distinct imprint of Japanese culture and language in Vket 1-4. But the Vket Global Team has been bringing in more international creators, and creating English language options to make it more accessible to non-native Japanese speakers.

There’s an impressive amount of innovation and creativity when it comes to world building and experiential design for the consumer experience, as the Virtual Market is run and managed by 80% volunteer work. There are a number of corporate sponsor worlds with companies from around the world who are interested in experimenting with experiential marketing, but also connecting to the bleeding edge of virtual culture within VRChat.

lhunI talk with the Director of the Vket Global Team LilBagel as well as the CTO and Process Manager Lhun on Wednesday, December 16th after getting a 2.5-hour tour and sneak peak of some of the new worlds for Vket 5. I’m really blown away at the increased level of worldbuilding and experiential design, and the size, scope, and professional polish of the Virtual Market, which won the well-deserved AIXR award for best marketing experience in 2020 with Virtual Market 4. We explore some of the deeper context for why Vket originally came about, and how it’s evolved over the years. I also get some of history of how Japanese anime culture has become so ubiquitous in apps like VRChat.


Check out Shanie MyrsTear’s preview of Virtual Market 5

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. So I am really excited about the Virtual Market 5 that's going to be launching here later today. I'll tell you why. So the Virtual Market is a group of creators that have come together. Starting back in 2018, on August of 26, they created it a single day. And that single day was to be able to help feature some of the different content creators, avatar creators within VRChat. And it's continued now. And this is the fifth one that's going to be coming up here from December 19th to January 10th. and it's grown each year there's like over 1500 different booths that are going to be there there's a whole number of different worlds so they're going to have like corporate booths there but then all these independent creators that are basically coming in to show their avatars and different things that they're creating shaders and music and tutorials and prefabs, lots of different content for other content creators. And so it's the makers and the creators and the artists that are coming together to be able to sell their wares. And a lot of it has come from the Japanese community. And this year with Virtual Market 5, they have a whole global team that is trying to internationalize it a little bit more, bring in more international creators, but also just make it so that there's less friction for people who are not native Japanese speakers to be able to have access to a lot of the content. So having translations to other languages as an example. So the virtual market does some of the best world building that I've seen over the course of the year. And they're really trying to create these worlds that are drawing you through to be able to look at all these different exhibitors. And so there's just a lot of really innovative world building and creativity. And each of the different booth creators have to really come up with different interesting gimmicks to be able to draw people's attention and to have a little bit of the social media and for people to go check out specific things. And so in order to do that, then there's also a lot of experiential design innovations that are happening within the virtual market. Overall, there's a lot of innovation and creativity that's happening in the virtual market. And I'm super, super excited to have had an early sneak peek. The world building is going into the next level. I'm not going to like spoil anything. I'll let people discover it on their own. And I had a couple of the global team, Little Bagel, as well as Loon. They are involved with both the community management and Loon's doing a lot of the chief technology officer and the process management, trying to just help herd all the cats, answer all the technical questions, and just get everything working within these Unity builds. That's the other thing is that the level of integration and unity, they're really pushing it to its limits in terms of really having the most polished, immersive experiences that you can. Some of the best experiences that I've had within Unity builds. So lots of things that are exciting here. They even have a lot of different events and we sort of dig into a lot of the history and the context and how this all came about and a little bit of the story of the virtual market. So virtual market is often abbreviated to V-K-E-T, also known as VKIT. So you hear a lot of people within the VRChat community just refer to it as VKIT, but they're referring to the virtual market. And yeah, so that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Vistas of VR podcast. So this interview with Little Bagel and Loon happened on Wednesday, December 16th, 2020. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:03:12.467] LilBagel: Hi, I'm Lowell Bagel. I'm the director of VCAT Global Team that's owned by Hickey Inc. My job is to interact with the Western side of the community and talk to people, get to know people, get a really good feel on what's going on in the community side of things. I don't really involve myself in the technical side of things. So like the map making and the mechanics that you see, I'm more of the individual that does all of the neat and tidy administrative stuff behind the scenes. So other people can do the cool things, like make the maps and make your mechanics and do the art and play music, like organize the DJs for a nice musical event and stuff. So I also helped direct a community convention called VRCon 2020. I consider myself a professional VR event manager, as well as a VR enthusiast and VTuber.

[00:04:01.070] Lhun: Yeah, so for my side of it, I don't know. I've been a VR evangelist as long as VR has been a thing, I guess. You know, I had a DK1, I've been a fan of VRChat since like 2014, so I've just been like deeply, deeply involved in everything VRChat for quite some time. So being part of like community events and being part of like VRC prefabs and building stuff in here is something that I've always done. So, you know, when the global team was looking for people, Bagel was suggested actually by Lacuzza of all people, you know, that maybe you should talk to Lun and see what he thinks about joining global team, because he knows a lot about the Japanese community. And I've always followed what they're doing as well. And I try to get as involved as I possibly could. It's difficult with a language barrier, but My role here really in Global Team and for Hickey generally is like a progress manager. I'm a technology officer essentially. I do clean up and various little things for the map making, but there's a lot of people involved, like 170 people roughly involved in building something like this for seven months. It's pretty wild, but so, you know, I can't toot my own horn too much, but like I do things like Udon mechanics and suggesting certain shaders and so on and so on. I also build maps as well. You know, we work on different events together and I've been doing that, do avatars for people really quick, come up with gimmicks and, you know, just, just advise on the technical side of things and explain how these systems work. So I guess my job is to know all the things and that's, that's really what it comes down to.

[00:05:28.381] Kent Bye: Awesome. And Dylan, I'm just going to have you introduce yourself in terms of your name as well. So just go ahead and introduce yourself.

[00:05:33.822] Lhun: Oh, sure. So yeah, my name is a play on words. The funny thing is, is that with a name like Lunn, I keep finding out that in other languages, it means other things. So in Lord of the Rings, Elvish, Lunn is blue and the name of a river. In Japanese, run run is means like excited or exuberant, which I guess fits my personality. And it's just a play on, on my name, which is Dylan. So Dylan, Dylan.

[00:05:57.572] Kent Bye: Awesome. Great. So the virtual market is something that's been going for a number of years now, and it's in VRChat. And I went to virtual market for, and it's super impressive in terms of this community event with a lot of innovation, really pushing the edge in terms of these e-commerce and ways of selling these different virtual goods, but also just world building and design. I think it's really quite innovative when it comes to all the different gimmicks and ways of getting folks attention, but also just general world building. So maybe just set a little bit of this context for the virtual market and how it first came about. And here we are coming up starting on December 19th and Japan, which is here in the United States on December 18th in the evening, it's going to be opening of the virtual market five, which is going to be running until January 10th. And so maybe you just give a little bit more context as to the virtual market.

[00:06:46.299] Lhun: So that started as a project of Feo, so Feo, Feo the alchemist, little green guy you might have seen at the AAXR Awards, accepting that award there. And Feo's sort of a visionary and, you know, credits VR with just sort of changing his life or turning his life around, you know, dealing with clinical depression and things like that. But VR really saved him. And he met a lot of people in VRChat and other social VR applications, really, you know, and sort of saved him. He couldn't deal with the social life outside of like in the real world, quote unquote, but in the virtual world, he could kind of be who he wanted to be, kind of obfuscate himself and and enjoyed being with those people and having fun. And he wanted a way to give back. So he concepted this idea of all these to work with all these people who are building these things for free, essentially. and give them a way to sort of showcase their goods. This was also around like when Booth.pm was getting popular as well. You know, and there's a commission site that works a bit like Etsy, but for everything in Japan. One of the things you can do there is 3D models and music and art and that sort of thing. And there's a real exchange culture around art and derivative art and doujin culture, they say, in Japan. So it's a uniquely Japanese thing, but not really anymore. Like it's becoming a lot more of that. But this concept of Comiket or of Anipo or Anime Expo, and other places like that, where you go around and you cosplay and you have your own little booth and you have your own little stall where you can sell your stuff and sign your things and show people what you've made or these crafts or comic books or whatever the case may be, you know, just sort of extended itself into virtual reality. So at the first VCAT, which you can find still, it's still in the game. It's like a two sided single map, 80 exhibitors, maybe 2000 visitors the first time it ever did. And that was like over like several months. And in that area, you know, it worked out really well. People loved it. Unity thought it was a good idea. So Unity Japan put a booth in there and they've got Unity Chan in there as well. And he had a few friends who own businesses like Funako, who you met tonight. He had run businesses as well, and Mika was part of this as well. And that led to them attaching Mocuri Project to it, which is the IP behind Meta Kalebco this time as well. So it's pretty deep, but essentially the folks that built the booths in VCAT 1 are the folks that are working with Hickey on the corporate side and building things now from scratch. And often many of the same people that worked on the very first VCAT are like core world builders or designers in the next VCATs that came after that. And it is really snowballed. Like it went from 2000 visitors to, you know, 1.1 million now.

[00:09:17.566] Kent Bye: Yeah. And what about you, Little Bagel, in terms of your story of the history, but also how you started to work with VCAT?

[00:09:23.106] LilBagel: Well, I've been around in VRC for about three years. So I started in November 26, 2017. And when it came down to how I got from then, which I was actually a mute at the time, which a mute is something in VRC referring to a player that doesn't use their microphone and more relies on body language. to communicate to people that deserves its own podcast probably or an interview thing entirely. And on top of that, there's even an entire deaf community inside of VRC, which is amazing. They're all very welcoming, very friendly, but without getting too far into that, going through all of that, basically I got deeply involved in the community because everything was super tight knit. Everything was really small. The player base is growing back in 2017 and growing at a pretty rapid pace, but it wasn't big enough to where like you could meet people pretty easily. Right. And then. From there, you know, you talk with people, some people like they grow, they find successes of themselves, and I'm very proud of them. Ultimately, my belief in community has never really wavered since the beginning. Similar to Fio, this game changed my life. VRChat was an extremely freeing experience for me. My previous job, it felt so limiting, ironically, because I would be traveling around the United States, on plane all the time. And you'd think, wow, he's traveling and stuff. What a great guy. He must be getting a lot done. I said, no, if you've traveled for work before you realize you get to see all these cool things. So it's like, you get to look, but never touch, you know? So it pushed me to buy like a portable PC. And it's like a small PC about the size of an Xbox one. And I even got the like, I got one of the WMRs just so I could stay in VR and continue to interact with the community because I knew it was really important to me. And for some reason, I knew I had to keep working at it. And I always had a belief in the grassroots of the community. What I've referred to as the grassroots is pretty much anyone who wants to contribute something or is inspired to contribute something to the community of social VR. That is the grassroots. And with that, I feel that that belief landed me where I am today with Fio under similar interests. It's funny when I heard Fios story about how the game reached out to him and saved his life. And it's done that for so many people. And throughout my years in VRC, I've seen that happen. People turn themselves around and make themselves better. And people ask me, what do you think of VRC? I tell them it's a human experience. You know, it's some people are like, well, is it good? Is it bad? I'm like, no, it's human. That's what it is. It's not a replacement of reality. You know, if you know what you're doing, it's more of an enhancement, but without getting too far on a tangent again, Actually, one of my friends, somebody who's not so outspoken in the community, but somebody who knew Fio and knew a lot of the Japanese side of the community was Saltbreaker. As Lun said, Lakuza was pretty much up for grabs for the position. They actually approached him first. Lakuza is one of the, they call them the ponies, the four ponies of the Prefabs community. And they basically are a big community in VRChat that houses all of the innovators of VRC, where they get together, they share ideas, they build worlds and share prefabs that make each other's worlds better. And Lakuza is one of the leaders of that. So of course, Fio went to him. Lakuza turned it down, but. On salt breakers recommendation and lack is his recommendation. They kind of nominated me. And from there. I took the job pretty much on a whim for a little bit. I was still working my job traveling while also trying to simultaneously stay involved with everything. So it was very busy trying to make the transition from a job that travels all the time across country. Like we're talking like from Indiana all the way to California. So like really long flights and still trying to juggle all that while staying active in the community and. It's amazing. And now, now I'm doing it full time and I couldn't be happier right now. It's, it's like a dream come true for me. I remember dreaming about VR when I was in middle school around the lunch table with my friends. I had no idea I'd be as active as I am now.

[00:13:29.867] Kent Bye: Hmm. Yeah. Cause I know that in the virtual market for there was still quite a lot of that experience that was distinctly Japanese in the sense that it was not as accessible in terms of even having things that were English there. And I, my understanding is that both you little bagel and Dylan coming in to really try to internationalize the effort and more to bring in other creators from other parts around the world. And maybe Lon, you can also talk a little bit about your journey and entry point into. VR and VR chat and how you came to be working here at Virtual Market doing what you're doing now.

[00:14:05.763] Lhun: Oh, for sure. I mean, I think it came to a need, you know, for that knowledge. And you're absolutely right about this distinctly Japanese thing. I found myself in this position where I was always explaining it to other people. You know, like, what is this reference to? Or what does this actually say? But it's not, you know, in terms of localization, we're definitely working on that. And it's not just myself and Bagel. Like, the global team is every, you saw little Yui there as well. Musha, you know, in business development as well. And she works from Japan, but is part of that overseas business development. Beynite especially too, you know, he's highly, highly involved with that bridge between the culture of Japan and then the culture here. So for me, I've always been sort of a bridge because I follow Japanese culture really, really closely. Japanese video games, you know, what's going on over there. Somewhat famously or infamously, I was the first person to lay out the methodology for importing Miku Miku Dance avatars, which is like a format for a physics system for humanoids, into VRChat. So somewhat infamously, people like to say that I made VRChat anime. I definitely wasn't the first one, but I've heard other people say in their interviews that I was probably the first one, or at least they learned it from me.

[00:15:15.875] Kent Bye: That's the MMD, right? Is that what that means?

[00:15:17.736] Lhun: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. MMD is Miki Miki Dance. So you'll hear this term around VRChat a lot. And interestingly, that's a whole other story in itself. But that software sort of pioneered this physics system, this inverse kinematics physics system with five point or eight point tracking, you know, with knees that bent properly and skin that moved properly and hair that moved properly. And it was developed as a promotional tool for a Yamaha voice synthesis software in Japan. as a university project, as someone in a computer science class, essentially. And they were pioneering the inverse kinematic system. And those avatars took off, became super viral. There's a whole culture around making them. And there's a massive overlap between the avatar, what we call avatar culture in Japan, and these creation of these characters that are like two-dimensional art turned into three-dimensional art. And a lot of the original creators of MMD type models are now doing things for VCAT or have been doing models for VRChat or other social VR spaces, especially in the VTuber space. That's huge. You know, people like Digitrevics who did the model for, there's just so many different characters that he's done modeling for over the years. And that has led to, he was an MMD modeler initially. So that's all connected to it. But, you know, I guess knowing that history is a big reason why I'm here, you know, being a part of that early VR chat is three-dimensional anime sort of culture. Um, and then trying to figure out, you know, okay, who are the people that made these things? The other thing that's always been a thing that's been on my mind about this. And another reason why I think feel likes having me around is I've always really wanted to push this. Protect copyright, give people a way to make money. 3d models are way too easy to rip. There's just no way to protect it. There's nothing you can do. So you start a culture around paying artists for their work. And if you can encourage people to do that, it stops being game reps. And it's morphed into this thing where it was feel giving people an opportunity to make money off of these original creations that they had made, wanting to start an economic cycle in VR. but also to stop people from using MMD models that didn't have the license to use them. Because something like Hatsune Miku belongs to Krypton Feature Media and Sega. That's a model that, and Yamaha by extension, so that character is theirs. You're not supposed to use it for commercial endeavors, but people were getting paid to modify these models and it wasn't right. So this is the best way to avoid that because you have these legal license creators. We have things like the uni virtual license, which is our licensing system and other licenses like creative commons and MIT that people are using for these things that allow people to actually make money doing what was a hobby for them or might've been a hobby for them. That really resonates with me. And that's why I stuck around.

[00:17:57.912] Kent Bye: Hmm. Yeah, there's certainly a huge anime culture and VR chat. So thank you for doing that. Or I don't know, there seems to be like a mass of people.

[00:18:09.343] Lhun: Yeah, it is. I don't know.

[00:18:11.024] LilBagel: He's like, I was definitely one of the first users in the game, but doing that one is one of the first, definitely one of the first of the groups of people that came in definitely wasn't the only one that contributed to that, but he was a big part.

[00:18:23.842] Kent Bye: Yeah. Well, so what I find fascinating is when I go to virtual market, I went to VCAT for, and I had a little tour, getting a little sneak preview with you and little bagel and a number of the other folks that are involved with VCAT. So what I find interesting is that I went to China back in 2018, and then I was on like a 72 hour visa. And in order to get that 72 hour visa, I was required to go to either South Korea or Japan afterwards. And so I went to a couple of days in Tokyo. And I was able to walk around and just sort of take in the culture. I've never felt so illiterate in terms of not being able to read anything. And I feel like the virtual market for was the closest that I've had to that feeling in VR, where it's like, it feels like I'm like going to Japan with so much of these cultural references and things that are there. And there are a lot of things that I'm not as familiar with, with the Japanese culture. And I very much appreciate getting a little guided tour from either you or someone like VR pill, who is also familiar a lot with the nuances of that culture. What I find interesting is just that it's the closest thing that I've had to feeling like I have a real cultural exchange with another entire culture. Like it's so broad in terms of all the different types of media and stuff that they're looking at. And folks who are familiar with that, I think they'll be able to enjoy it at a whole nother level. I mean, it does feel like going to an anime convention. But there's also lots of other either tools for VR chat and other shaders and, you know, other wheel builders that are creating stuff. And so if you were to kind of describe the different types of content that are there at the virtual market, because you have the corporate sponsors, you have the independence, maybe just sort of lay it out a little bit in terms of who is there showing stuff and also what type of stuff are they showing there?

[00:20:02.668] Lhun: Oh, it runs the gamut. So you have everything from musicians making custom music and sound effects that you can use in asset creation, whether that's an actual Unity game or just for use in VRChat. Obviously, there's a skew towards social VR applications because that's what people are using. So that's the thing to go to the show. So that's the kind of thing people might be interested in. So if you're trying to make a sale, obviously you're going to tailor towards that. But it starts as low level as that. Sometimes it's even knowledge. Some people will sell original artwork or tutorials or books. So it'll start as low level as that. And then it moves up to things like audio or custom audio that's been built. Next, you might get shaders so you can customize a tune look on an avatar. And a lot of the shaders that people use are made by VKeters. Things like Arctune that was super famous over the years and other shaders like UTS2 and things like that start to gain popularity because of this. From shaders, you get into meshes where people are doing custom items. You'll find some really simple things like accessories, little things you might want to attach to your avatar. They don't really have any sort of form or function, but it's a simple mesh. And a lot of people get started with that. Like they'll model something that they wanted to have on their avatar. And they think, well, I could participate in VCAD. I could go to virtual showcase or avatar showcase and put a little thing there. And that's where they start. And then that goes on to, you know, you'll start seeing people who have done custom Vroid modifications that they can attach to their avatars. And then that becomes full modeling. And I've seen people go from that very, very bottom level where they've made like something that could have been done in five minutes in Blender or somebody's experience, but it might've taken them four weeks to learn how to put those cubes together and maybe figure out Substance Painter and what a UV map is. to go all the way up to where I've seen people buy VCAT 5 who are now doing their full models like from scratch. And then that goes even further. You can get into $150 models, $200 models, $3,000 models where you'll get commissions and other like full custom work. Bagel's model is like a version 2 of a full custom model that was made just for him that started with a piece of artwork that started with a concept that was spoken about and then turned into art and then turned into a 3D model and then further refined from there. And that's all commissioned. So that's created this economic cycle for the artist, the person who is commissioning the model, the model itself. And that's the kind of thing you'll find at VCAT for sure. You'll find more advanced stuff too. Things like Unity Editor extensions by people like the groups at VRC Prefabs, the fireworks shows that you saw at VCAT Night at World Beyond. It takes all kinds of people to put something like that together, and all of them are sort of related to that. Everything that comes together in the end to create what you've got on top of whatever platform you happen to be in, every single type of person is there. Everyone from the core builder doing the core code for a complex compute shader that everyone ends up using, right down to somebody who's trying out making a pair of glasses for the first time.

[00:22:57.457] Kent Bye: Yeah. Little Bagel, what do you have to say about either the different types of exhibitors or anything else about what type of stuff you see there?

[00:23:03.983] LilBagel: What I greatly appreciate about Virtual Market is that from the beginning, getting on this project, I'm a very community-driven guy. I took the job and what really attracted me whenever I came in is the fact that they are focused on the creators first and foremost. Yeah, as we went through that tour, as you could see, you pointed out something on our tour where you said that the experience seems somewhat linear, and it's true. That's because it is specifically designed with that in mind that going through all of these worlds, you see the exhibitors, all of them. They want you to see all of them. They don't want you to miss a single one. So everyone gets the spotlight once they get themselves inside, and it's all free too. So no exhibitor pays a fee to be a part of virtual market. They sign up and then they come in. That's how it works. So that's because of that, the diversity of content that arises from that. As Londis pointed out, you get all that technical stuff, but also you get that societal stuff that naturally starts springing up where people, as you also saw, are advertising their community events. Some booths that you went past were actually advertising events that they're putting on or their own little communities or their own little shows that they're doing. So you have everything from your super technical maps and gimmicks and avatars to your community leaders who are advertising their communities and putting out Hey, you know, come on over here and we have a cafe thing for you. Like maybe you can stop by our cafe one day. You know, we made this map just for you guys. You know what I mean? So it's not just about all the tech stuff if you're interested in that, cool. But if you're interested in finding a place where you belong, that's also something that VCAT can do as well. And I hope it expands more on these things and leaving it so open-ended. I'm just excited to seeing like this idea just come into being like more and more and more like just maturing because it is it's all new startup. And as it moves forward, I'm very excited to be a part of how that entire culture with that idea continues to mature. I want to be there the whole way.

[00:25:14.448] Kent Bye: Yeah. The last VCAT, there was the Pararell Tokyo where you climb up to an area and then there's some portals. And then a lot of the other worlds, they seem to be like, you would walk around in a loop and you'd come back to where you were in the beginning. And I just noticed some of these worlds this year were more of like, there's a whole journey that you go on that has like a beginning, middle and end. And then it has like sort of a culminating point or something at the end that makes it satisfying that you. went there. So I think the sophistication of world building and what's it mean to make it interesting to be able to walk through a world and see all these interesting architectural features. I think the type of world building here is some of the best world building that I've seen. And I think it's, it's interesting to see, you know, some of the worlds feel like you're in a mall and you're just window shopping, but there's other ones that just feel like you're going on a journey. and you're being taken somewhere. And this year, I think the corporate worlds, some of these corporate worlds from the last year, the Parareal Tokyo, I saw it and it was okay, but I wouldn't imagine myself really hanging out there with any significant time. But this year, some of those corporate worlds just feel like the level of world building has taken to the next level. And Yeah, maybe you could just speak a little bit about the difference between the creative worlds and the corporate worlds, because you do have quite a number of different corporate sponsors. And from myself, someone here in the United States, I'm not always necessarily sure of the import of how big some of these companies are. I mean, obviously HP, Disney and Oculus are big companies that I've heard of that have different booths, but maybe you just talk about generally some of the type of corporations and companies that are getting involved with the virtual market there.

[00:26:40.575] Lhun: I think it's any company that wants to try something new, like Audi did it last time too. And it becomes almost a case study for them. You know, like what can we do in the virtual world? What can we do, you know, with this burgeoning community? And these people are, I don't want to say spenders because, you know, not all of them are. A lot of them are very like discerning consumers. But at the same time, you know, when you cater to a community that is still, let's be frank, it is niche in some ways. I mean VRChat definitely is the biggest social VR space by far, but it is still a very niche community to cater to. So when you see a company like Dejika Games or you see a company like Sega, you know, look at what isn't their core audience and go, we want to put this in VR with this little company called Hickey and put it at this virtual market in a specific video game. You know what I mean? Which is, you know, VRChat is more of a platform now, but that speaks to people and they go, wow, you know, thank you for doing that. You know, thank you for noticing us and our little crazy VR world. And that I think leads to the fans of that or gaining greater fans. You know, the same thing happened with Comic Vket. where we were able to highlight a bunch of comic artists, but then we had big comic artists doing things as well, and other publishers and publishing companies that were like, hey, this is really cool. This is a really innovative thing. So it's definitely caused a pile on. After Parareal Tokyo, there was just so many companies that were sort of like really excited to try this out as well and try something new and to come into this, especially with COVID-19. Like we've got this way to have a convention like Comdex or like E3. Like imagine if E3 was a virtual market. I mean, it would be just as fun without having to pay for the hotel or flight, right? I think, cause most of the stuff you could do, you know, you notice there's video games that you can play in there. You know, you can take a sample or a slice of that and bring it into virtual reality, but it's just, it's more impactful. You know, so the design of the corporate worlds are really the draw for the individual worlds, right? And yeah, we want people to be able to have fun and hang out and go on rides like you would at a convention or, you know, try the motion simulator or check out some new product or game before it's out. A lot of the things that are in there are also sneak previews, which is part of why the corporate worlds don't stay up after VCAT's over. Again, they're the draw for really we want to get people in front of the independence, right? Because that's really exciting because the variety of stuff you find in there is more. So these big companies, we help them by promoting them and trying something new. But at the same time, we're also able to say, OK, you know, now you've reached the end of this world. Go to one of the exhibitor worlds and see that, too. Right. And that's really how that flow is set up. But we want people to be able to enjoy themselves in that limited time experience with that and get access to things they wouldn't normally get access to. Guilty Gear is a good example. That booth is featuring a game that won't be out till April in 2021. And everything you see in there is from an unreleased game. And that's really the only place you can see it right now.

[00:29:38.683] Kent Bye: So one of the other things that I noticed, which has been intriguing since VRChat has begun, which is what is going to be the business model. And I think we have a little bit more clarity with that with VRChat plus where you can pay $9.99 a month or $99 for a full year and that you get a whole bunch of. avatar slots, you know, you used to have like 12, they increased it for everybody to 16. Now you have a hundred avatar slots, which for me personally, as I go through virtual market, as I'm a VR chat plus user, I have all these slots that you can grab these different avatars. And it's interesting because you can. wear those avatars, but they'll have like little, this is a sample or a little QR code. And the whole method of exchange has also been just really fascinating because most of anything that happens on these platforms, you would think that VRChat would want to just take a cut of all exchange that happens. But, you know, Booth is a whole other separate platform where a lot of this exchange happens. And then even at the virtual market, you have the ability to click the buy button and it takes you to a whole other separate 2d website that then you do your e-commerce in a separate site. And then this year, it seems like you're launching your own buttons and everything else that you have. And so maybe just talk a bit about that a little bit, because it might be a little bit confusing for people if they're coming in to figure out that, you know, it's not an in-game purchase system that you're not going through steam. You're not going through any in-world exchange, but it's sort of sending you off into these 2d websites. And then you buy it and then you sort of go in back into the air chat, but it's kind of a unique way of doing it. And it, to me, it seems to fostered something that has gotten really big, as big as the virtual market to have everything from people giving away stuff for free. And they're not charging, they don't care about charging and they just want to share. But there's other people that are finding these different ways of allowing you to have a sample and try on the clothes. But then if you want to actually buy it, then you can go through all this e-commerce and actually purchase it.

[00:31:28.007] Lhun: Yeah, there's two steps. So obviously we didn't have our own e-commerce site, Vket1, and the V-market website has been around now since Vket4. So that was there, it was available. It wasn't as popular at first, and it was new. We called it Vmarket Beta because it was a beta. So it is our own e-commerce site through Hickey. And we provide the hosting, we provide a special system that allows you to create derivative works from other people's masterworks. So for example, even HP got in on this, their mascot character, the Sakura character, is a mother work. And our site has a unique system that allows you to make a derivative work like clothing for that avatar, that particular avatar, and then it associates it with that master work avatar. And you have individuals that are doing this too. So if you had like a popular base, like low poly con, like the con avatar that is partnered with the health and safety company, That avatar is so popular, and you're allowed to make derivative works of that avatar, but you have to purchase it first. So we wanted to provide a way to foster remix culture, but then also, yeah, we're not doing the purchase through VRChat. We are our own company, and we want individuals to be able to have a choice about what they do. Because of the way, the portability of 3D models, people can use booth.pm if they're happy with that and they want to keep using it. People could use Gumroad if they wanted to, or Sketchfab. or any other website, we don't force you to use, you know, at VirtualMarket, we don't force you to use one payment processor or our payment processor. We're not going to force you to do that. You know, we'll provide you the convenience of having one, but you can put your model anywhere you want. Just like we couldn't tell you to charge Visa or MasterCard or to partner with Chase Bank for your debit machine or to use SquarePay, we wouldn't tell you to do that. You know, if you had a booth at a real convention, you can take cash only if you want, right, and do it through exchange. We don't want to be in between. We don't want to force you to do that. It's not about that. It's about fostering creativity more so than being profitable.

[00:33:18.039] LilBagel: When it comes down to that, that kind of idea is kind of also grown by the fact that virtual market has a very passionate community that understands this as well. And they help us by giving us feedback and making sure that we're able to cater these services better to them. You know, we even have a very, like right now, leading up to the events of VCAT five, we have a crowdfunding campaign. So that allows them to help us out a bit too, and keep this event free. That is combined with the corporate sponsors, obviously, but everyone's pitching in to help create and foster that kind of community for everyone to enjoy for free.

[00:33:58.231] Kent Bye: Yeah. You said a number of times that the virtual market is like a volunteer organization, more or less there is a company that is behind it, but like 80% of the folks that are involved are volunteer. And so it is nice to see how much of this effort is this community driven effort and how many people, do you have a sense of how many booths they're going to be and how many different worlds, because you have different worlds and different booths. Do you have like an estimate as to how many you expect here once you launch?

[00:34:24.151] Lhun: Are we allowed to say? We can't say the exact number, but I can say that we have said officially that there is 1780 something applicants for exhibition. So these are all people who intended to put a booth in. Now, the challenge of making a VCAT booth is fun, and that's part of it, right? So it's really hard to put a booth together, especially within the constraints that you're given. we have to build these worlds that are both performant and also like filled with stuff and they need to look good and they got music and post-processing and you name it. So to do that but also fit all of these unique assets in every single one of them is a unique mesh, every single one of them is a unique shader, every single one of them has got its own 4k textures and it just gets ridiculous. So we've even built our own submission system and a collaboration submission system called VitDeck that allows you to work in unity for these massive projects and import thousands and thousands of booths into each one of the worlds. So we split them up once the load gets to a certain point, we figure out who's going to be able to make it. We have three waves. There's a first, second, and third wave. Third is the final wave. You get two preview periods as a booth exhibitor. So you get access to your own little version of the world, you get a slice of the world inside your Unity scene so you can see what the lighting is going to look like, you can see what's surrounding you, and then you bake the booth and it gets submitted to a special application that we've built that then allows our placement team, and there's a lot of people involved in this, to put all the booths down in a sort of semi-automated way. So we have to sort of figure out how many people are gonna make it to that third wave and have a final submission. So the number of applicants does get reduced to the number of exhibitors, but we've had a lot of success this time with people being able to run the marathon, so to speak, of get those booths into the world and finish it up. I mean, I'm sure I personally helped at least 25 people over Discord calls to get their booth optimized and get it under the draw calls that it needed to be and get it under the material count that it needed to be. But that's part of the fun. It's really challenging and you learn a lot of stuff. But in terms of volunteer work, that's just it. I mean, I started as a volunteer. Bagel started as a volunteer. At the start of VCAT 4, we were volunteers. And then that led to it. But without... Go ahead.

[00:36:33.621] LilBagel: What's really interesting, like what you're just talking about before I lose this point and you're talking about helping all these people out and running the marathon. It's almost like, you know, when we're talking about all the volunteers and stuff, this whole conglomeration, like everyone feels like as a part of the same team, almost, you know, where. People even host like help parties because this is the first time that some of these people have gotten this professional development deadline. These are some of their first experiences with these kinds of things. And it's something that they can also put on their portfolio in the future. So it's really interesting seeing this organic thing kind of morph around that, where these people want to put their best foot forward. And they're like, you know what, we want to try. And they all get together, trying to figure it out. And they make their own teams and even our website, right? It supports people to get into circles, which allow them to share a spot inside of VCAT. And they basically create their own dev team for their own little booth, which is super cool. And they all do that just on their own.

[00:37:38.217] Kent Bye: So what are you the most excited about here about the virtual market?

[00:37:41.978] LilBagel: Me personally, with what I do, I'm really excited to see what people think about it. I'm somebody who I'm deeply invested in knowing what the community thinks about all of this nice stuff that's happening. It just, it's so exciting. And I like to get into that atmosphere with everyone and cheer and celebrate and provide these kinds of experiences for them and just watch everybody like, just kind of have a good time, you know? That's what a virtual market is about. At the end of the day, we want people to go through all this and have a fantastic experience, feel like they went on a journey. And I want to do that. I want to get a group of friends and take some time off to go through the event. Cause like, that's the thing too. Like I haven't seen everything. because it's impossible for me to have seen everything until the event happens. So even I get to enjoy it, even though I worked on it, which is great. I get to get a bunch of friends and we get to get together inside of an event. We go through and look at all the cool booths and get fascinated by all the cool things that people are bringing to the table. Every single booth I look at, I think to myself, I'm like, wow, these are the innovators of the social VR industry. They're going to go somewhere someday. You know, these are our go-getters, you know, and I just look at all of them and I get so excited for them because then you see them next year and they've improved. And you're just like, Oh, it's happening. It's happening. Like the future. It's so cool. I love it so much.

[00:39:01.920] Lhun: I'm really excited for the music, honestly. I'm like Bagel, I like to see people's reactions to things. I'm also kind of excited, I have this almost perverse excitement about finding things that are wrong and wanting to fix it and innovate it and see what we can do better about it. I'm like that every time. I'm a very, very technical person. So I listen to a lot of like the community complaints at every VCAT and I want to solve it. So I know it sounds weird, you know, I want to hear what's wrong. And maybe it's exciting to see how little I get asked about that, or how little we can have to fix, or how little feedback we can give, you know? I guess if there isn't any negative feedback, you can't innovate. But I'm really excited to see how people react to some of the technology that we're bringing this time. Because we always find at the end of VKET that there's a lot of other groups that will come in and try some of these ideas too. And I like seeing that as well, like to see where people take those ideas. But I am really, really excited for the Miavi concert. That's something that I don't think in North America people have seen, or even in VR really, and having such a well-known star like him and other people like that, I hope it encourages more people to try this kind of thing too. And hopefully to do it in a social VR space, because that's where your users are. All of us are in here. We're not on the Facebook store. We're not browsing the news on Oculus Dash. We're sitting around in VR chat talking about how cool stuff is. So if you can mark it to us directly, we're there anyway. There's an entire community dedicated to building ridiculous club scenes inside VRChat. The full-body dancing club scene is insane. You ever want to see $700,000 of computer equipment in one room? Go to a VRChat club night. But they innovate off of each other. nonstop. So the video players get better. The visual effects get better. The optimization gets better. The worlds get cooler. The dance clubs get ridiculous. And then the avatars get better. And who's got the better party trick? That is something that it's just a massive feedback loop. So watching what people do with what is created for virtual market and by virtual market and seeing what they do after that is just going to keep me fueled all year round.

[00:41:03.555] Kent Bye: Yeah, I know that when I went to the virtual market for going around with a group of people, it was really great. And I think that's the other aspect of VRChat Dimension is having a group of people go around and try to discover the different gimmicks and the different hidden things. Because there's lots of hidden stuff there that you kind of have to poke around. And if you just go through it by yourself, you're likely missing a lot of stuff unless you really spend a lot of time in each of the booths. And so it's nice to have people like discover something and you go over and see what that is. So that whole social experience of going through with a group of people, I think is fairly unique of anything else that I've seen in VR. But you mentioned that the events, there's going to be some things that are going to only happen like once. It sounds like, is there a list of where those events are? I know that when you showed me into the world, there was like a billboard with some of that. And just as a technical note for the future, everything defaults to Japanese and you can change it to English, but it'd be nice in the future to be able to set my default language and then just have everything. So I don't have to click the button in each world. in order to switch it away from Japanese to read the English, but where is the best way for people to find out where all the events are?

[00:42:05.415] Lhun: I would say definitely Twitter. Our website does have a lot of that, but Twitter is in Japan, like the SNS, they say, the social networking site. So everything is Twitter. I don't know if it's because Japanese is just a really efficient language. And so you can fit a lot in 256 characters. But Twitter is like the de facto place to go for everything. But we also have Vket News, which Bagels spearheads with Fio on the Vket channel YouTube website. So we always talk about things on there as well. In terms of events during the event, you'll find a bunch of them, as you mentioned, on the billboards around the world. And in the hub world during the event, there's a whole section where there's a calendar of events that are happening there. In terms of a technical question about English versus Japanese, that does become a technical problem. These worlds were built when SDK 3 was brand new. So we started working on this like seven months ago. So you can't really easily detect and VRChat has pretty good privacy too, so you can't really detect where someone is from or what language they would prefer to use. Not easily, but we're working on it. For example, in Udoncube in SDK 3, we can detect that. And we've also made prefabs that sort of like tries to guess the right language. In a lot of places, like especially in the official stuff, we have English and Japanese, at least with the instructions. But yeah, there is definitely some technical hurdles there. One thing about content creation is that there's still a large number of Japanese creators. I don't know what it is. It's almost like North America is like we have consumers and innovators and in Japan we've got designers and artists and there's always a huge number of Japanese artists and model makers that come in and the difference is huge. To imagine that maybe two to 8% of VRChat's users, and there's a large number of them, but two to 8% of VRChat's users are Japanese. But to have at the last VCAT, like a thousand of the exhibitors were Japanese, like that's a huge number of the community is actually somebody who's like making 3D models from scratch, which is a fairly esoteric skillset. And yet there's so many of them here. So a lot of things will default to Japanese because a lot of the tools and everything being built is by Japanese users. We have a few of us, you know, like myself and a few other folks who are designing stuff for VCAD and other exhibits and events like that who are from the West. And there's still like, you look at Raindance Immersive and other things that are going on too. That's starting to catch up as well, right? Especially with the influence of things like The Devouring and other groups like that building amazing stuff too. I think it'll catch up. But yeah, I'm sure those are the types of things that the global team generally is trying to solve. We want to globalize everything and world beyond is really this like how you can connect to people from all around the world through VR. And that's that's really the theme of this entire VCAT is the step into the rest of the world and to try to solve that barrier to reduce that and increase collaboration and understanding around the world. So yeah, you're absolutely right. I think it definitely feels less like a Japanese event now, but it's obviously still being spearheaded by a majority of Japanese creators. So if I could say one thing as a counter to that, bring us more creators. Just talk to me. We'll get you in next time.

[00:45:12.083] Kent Bye: Yeah. And also, I mean, just being able to set your default language, I think would, would also just help it so that it'd be like, okay, I'll just have to read this in English and not have to feel like I have to find the button to switch it. It's just extra friction. But yeah, I'm super impressed with everything that has been created here and the amount of enthusiasm that I see from the Japanese community. And I've also just heard that VR chat as a whole thing and a movement within the context of Japan, like it, sometimes it trends on Twitter. And I imagine when this is launching, there's going to be a lot of people that are gonna be talking about it there in Japan. There has been different moments of certainly here in the United States where there was the, uh, the kind of the meme world of the, uh, total landscaping world that was built, that viral and it gets news, but it seems like within Japan, it seems more frequent that there's events or things that are happening. that are happening in VR chat that are kind of trending within the country of Japan.

[00:46:05.603] LilBagel: I've always said this when it comes down to the community on the JP side, they are way ahead of us on the Western side of things when it comes down, I mean, both in tech and obviously with their community mindset, that's also more advanced than ours at the moment. When you look at the big picture of social VR. So really right now, what I think virtual market five represents is that the Western market or the Western side of the community is starting to realize the kind of things that they can be on board with. And it's really cool watching these people. understand that this very well might be staring in the face of the future when it comes to these kinds of things. I mean, we all see in the science fiction movies, like Ready Player One and things like that, like these kinds of things existing, but we're like, nah, that's like going to be 10 years or like not even like 10 years, like maybe 50 years for us that we're going to happen, but it's happening like right now, like this is the start, you know, and everyone begins seeing that and they're like, aha. And then you have your innovators come out and they're starting to catch up for sure. And more and more people are becoming more open to the idea of all of this. And it's opening up so many more possibilities with everyone. And it's really cool to see.

[00:47:18.461] Kent Bye: Hmm.

[00:47:19.301] Lhun: I think there's an overlap too, with VTubers. That's a huge thing. Yes.

[00:47:24.463] LilBagel: A lot of the VTubers in the Western side started in VRChat. Most of them did. Actually, I would argue probably 90% of them did. So I'm sure they're out there, but I haven't really met any VTubers who haven't played VRC first before jumping into VTubing.

[00:47:39.841] Lhun: But even before VCAT and VRChat was popular in Japan, the idea of a social VR platform was something that was like permeating all of their media. What they call the isekai genre of anime and manga was just exploding. Things like Sword Art Online and Log Horizon and all of these different super popular things that they're popular over here too, but this idea of like going to another world and being a superhero. And, you know, so that just resonates with Japanese pop culture right now. And when Kizuna Ai was being put on the side of jumbo jets and buses in Japan, you know, she was this full body tracked character using very, very, very, very similar technology to the way that VRChat does it now, even designed by somebody who is, that's a long story, but it goes back to the whole MMD thing once again. Everybody wanted to be that everybody wanted to do that. They wanted to know how to how do we do this? So now VR chat and other social VR platforms like this let you do that, but then they realize okay Well now I don't have a model like how can I make myself look like the way I want to look or how can I be the character? I want to be how can I be the superhero and things like VCAT can step in and other creators of EK can step in and go okay now we can give you that avatar and now you can build that together or you can learn to build an avatar and but that vtuber culture is definitely an overlap there because there's something really powerful about being the character you want to be i mean that goes way back in video games character creators like even in modern ones like cyberpunk are ridiculously detailed and it's like who's gonna see that Who's going to see that character in the single player game? You can spend seven hours building the character. They realize that no one's going to look at it. You might look in the mirror once in a while, but it's the fun of knowing that you are yourself and being yourself and being able to customize it. I think it's the appeal of games like The Sims 2. Same deal, right? But in this way, it's a lot more real. It feels a lot more real.

[00:49:27.841] Kent Bye: Yeah. And I know I've talked to other YouTubers from Japan who work in the technology of that. And just mentioning how in Japan, there's like a communitarian aspect of like really driven by the community, but also it's not always good etiquette to stand out and to express your own personal identity in some ways. And I feel like in some ways the VR gives people permission to maybe do that a little bit more than they are allowed to within the normal culture. So I don't know if that's a part of it as well.

[00:49:54.600] Lhun: Oh, we get that sense for sure. From, from Japan, like everybody.

[00:49:58.067] Kent Bye: Yeah. Like there's an opportunity to really explore their identity in a way that they don't feel like they can within the normal culture.

[00:50:04.918] Lhun: I'm almost certain that different Japanese, especially different Japanese personalities, because of like whether it's the high profile nature of their job, you know, just being an artist or a high profile artist that we work with, maybe we get exposed to more of them. But I'm quite certain that there's many of them that have adopted multiple different personalities and characters inside and outside of VRChat to obfuscate who they really are. There's a lot of famous people that we, out of courtesy, don't talk about. who you might interact with and not realize it in, especially on the Japanese side, but that happens in the West too.

[00:50:37.332] Kent Bye: Hmm. Nice. Well, just to wrap up things here, I'm just curious what each of you think is the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what it might be able to enable.

[00:50:48.339] LilBagel: Well, I definitely think that things like VCAT are a precursor to what we're seeing of the culmination of like the final product of social VR. I think for those who say that social VR, they shouldn't try it or maybe are against it because they think it's a replacement of reality, I think need to rethink that a little bit because nothing in tech has ever moved forward by necessarily replacing anything. It's more taken an idea and enhanced it. And it's interesting when you think about that in the context of virtual reality, because reality is a part of it. So the thing you're enhancing is reality with the virtual side of all of this technology that we've learned over time. So as we've seen already, we're seeing its own culture grow, this acceptance of globalization, maybe even some barriers being broken that people once thought existed that don't actually exist. It's harder for people to as Lund said there, you know, you can be somebody who's like pretty popular or famous in real life. But once you get into the meat and bones of VRC, you could be whoever you want, and nobody's gonna know or care or, you know, hey, I'm this guy worked on that thing at one time. And so people are just gonna like, you know, treat you like a normal dude. Oh, that's cool. You want to go to a world or something and check out some really cool thing? Yeah, sure. Let's go. Yeah. So it's really unique. And I think social VR is this way where we as a race are able to come together and truly share these ideas. I mean, even with this World Beyond idea with VCAT5, That's exactly what it is. And I told you guys while we were sitting there, like next to a certain area that's inside there. I cannot say, I'm not sure if I could say what it is called at the moment to include it, but you know, we were sitting there and I told you guys, I'm like, look at this. Like, you know, we're, we're looking at all this stuff and it's like, the world has come together and. It's exactly how it's going to be like social VR just breaks these boundaries, these borders. I don't have to take a flight over to Japan to meet the people I work with. I just do it right here. You know, I remember a video from the guy who. I don't remember it necessarily. I know it's like his old black and white YouTube video. And I want to remember who the guy was that I haven't been able to find the YouTube video since I found it, but very important. I think he invented the supercomputer. I'm not sure, but it's an interview where he looks behind. Oh man, this guy. He's looking so fly. He looks like he got kissed on the cheek by his wife and walked out the door. He knew he was about to change the future with an interview. And he's sitting there right in front of a supercomputer in this huge complex, all these vacuum tubes. And he's smiling and he's like, he gets asked an interview question that he was asked was, is so what do you think the future is with all of this? Exactly the same question that you asked just now to him. And he said. All this that you see behind me will eventually be able to fit in your back pocket. And the average businessman will be able to work as if he lived in the city and the country. Working in the country was a privilege. And he knew that people desired to just have their own domain, but to be themselves and to access that kind of freedom. And that technology was that bridge to do so. And I think social VR Kind of proves that I'm sitting right now with an Oculus quest two and a portable PC. I got this job because I was traveling. I did it on hotel internet because I stayed involved. His dream came true. In some ways I could be anywhere and still do exactly what I'm doing now.

[00:54:35.191] Kent Bye: Hmm.

[00:54:38.217] Lhun: For me, VR is a dream machine. It's how we explore inner space. You know, we do explore outer space. We want to know the nature of the universe, you know, but one thing we still don't really have a grasp on and what is intelligence? What is imagination? What is it like? What makes that a thing? Why can we have these conversations? Why can we be introspective? How are we these chunks of dead stars that can gaze back at living stars or stars long past and then ask about why we are here or what that is? We are the, I forget who said the line, but we are the universe's way of observing itself. But I think that VR and technology like it allow us to visualize and experience physically that in a much more intimate way, it hijacks you. I think we're gonna go into a place where AR and VR are sort of one in the same, things are going to start replacing other things. Physical creations and physical objects won't necessarily be any more or less important than a virtual one because it's going to become so imperceptible that we won't know anymore. It's terrifying, exciting, and a little bit dystopian to some people, but to other people it's really freeing. I think that not having to have this barrier, the perception of how you look or, you know, your culture or any of that, you know, can just be completely erased or embraced in an even more elaborate and fancy way if you really want that. But I think that we can take our dreams and make them into something that feels almost every bit as real. And that's just going to get more and more ingrained. You know, our technology is an extension of us. You know, at some point, we'll probably download our brains into these things and live a very, very long time. But then we'll send ourselves out to the stars. And maybe that's the only way we can do it. These poor meatbags can't handle the vacuum of space, but we could put our brains in a computer and send it out there. So maybe the first interplanetary species is still just a bunch of ones and zeros, but it's still our ones and zeros. It's our ideas. It's our imagination that made it possible. So, you know, are we living in a simulation? Sure. I mean, probably. If you look at something like VCAT, we don't describe VR chat or VCAT or virtual reality. We don't describe visiting these things as I put my headset on and played the video game VR chat. You say, I visited VCAT or I went to a Rizumu club or I went to the hub and met my friends. We already don't talk about it in terms of playing a game or booting a piece of software. We talk about it being a physical place and a physical experience, and you do it naturally. You don't even notice. Hmm.

[00:57:11.350] Kent Bye: Nice. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?

[00:57:17.837] Lhun: Don't be afraid to create. Come create with us. Anyone can learn to do this. I, you know, flower of good learned to model six, eight months ago, something like that. Never touched blender in his life. My wife never touched blender in her life and she's working on something right now. I can tell you that. And you know, this is someone who is an artist. If you've got any technical skill or any artistic skill, come be a creator. You have something valuable to contribute, even if it's an idea.

[00:57:45.753] LilBagel: This is a very large thing that's happening in our lives right now. And I don't see this going anywhere anytime soon. So just to kind of expand on what Lun just said, definitely find your way, come on in, see what it's all about. Give it a chance for sure. I would highly recommend that. And don't come in with the perspective of thinking it's going to replace the things we know. Reality will still remain reality. Don't worry. It's not going anywhere, but definitely it's here to enhance. And I have already seen the amazing things that social VR community and VR as a whole, and XR as a whole has changed people's lives. They found careers. They found their friends. They found their groups and communities where they are accepted. They found their lovers. It's insane how interconnected this makes everyone. And it brings everyone so much closer together. And the sharing of ideas is now becoming more and more rapid. And now where it's basically like teleporting into somebody's living room and sharing an idea over a brew, you know, or two, it's become easier than ever to be physically there with someone else and to have that genuine human experience. And I see this being the definite way this is going. It'll just get better from here. The ideas will keep getting bolder and bigger, the art more crazy. And as people get more experienced, as the medium is beginning to figure out, it will challenge our baseline assumptions on what we think maybe looks good. Cause now we get to see how people react in this virtual environment, like actively with body language, you know, and it's just interesting to know where all of this is leading and going and. We got to take this ride together. Let's go. Like, I can't wait.

[00:59:39.772] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Lil Bagel and Lon, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. Just a final thought for me is Virtual Market 4, I was really impressed to see where it was able to bring everything together. And I think that the Virtual Market 5 is just taking it to the next level, just the world building and the size and all the community. And I'm just look forward to exploring it and discovering all the gimmicks and having people to get out there and see what's happening. I think there's a lot of cutting edge of the culture of what's happening. Lots of innovation that's happening with this community and just a lot of creativity and a lot of the community coming together. And I think it's definitely worth checking out just from all those things alone and let alone for all the other sponsors and other ways in which that these companies are coming in and advertising and doing that as well. So, but yeah, I'm excited to, once it opens up and here in the United States, it's going to be in the evening of the 18th, but it's going to be the 19th in Japan after the opening ceremony, it's going to open up and go until I think around like January 10th or January 9th here in US. So I just look forward to having some time to be able to dive in and explore it even more. Thanks again for taking me on a tour to give a little sneak peek. I'm super stoked to dive in even more and take different folks around and just explore it some more. So yeah, just thanks again for all the work that you've been doing here. Super stoked and excited for this to launch. And yeah, thanks for joining me here on the podcast.

[01:00:53.797] Lhun: Thanks a ton.

[01:00:54.890] Kent Bye: Thanks, Kent. So that was a little bagel. He's the director of the VKet global team working at Hickey Inc. He also was a director of VCon and does a lot of VR event management and community management. He's a VR enthusiast as well as VTuber as well as Loon. He's the process manager and technology officer and a part of the VKet global team. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, Well, this is a can't miss event. If you're involved with the virtual reality industry, then I think it's really worth just going and checking out what's happening here with the virtual market, because there's just a lot of innovation from experiential design, world building. There's lots of avatar culture, being able to try on avatars, seeing what kind of things people are making and doing. There's going to be a whole corporate experimentation with experiential marketing. And so you have all these big companies, a lot more of the bigger companies from Japan, I'd say a lot of them I haven't necessarily even heard of. But you have Oculus and HP and Disney, you know, they're having different advertisements for movies and video games that are coming up. So lots of different experimentation when it comes to that. And also just the virtual reality community in terms of the art and the creativity. One of the things that Lune said is that a lot of the art and design is coming from Japan. I mean, just VRChat within itself has just been flooded with anime culture and it sounds like Loon was actually a part of that of being able to translate these Miku Miku dance characters the MMD characters that had all these inverse kinematics animations and be able to integrate that into a VRChat avatar and that was a catalyst to be able to really have what ended up being this huge takeover of anime when it comes to vr chat and that has continued to today in terms of just the proliferation of that japanese pop culture and art that is in these virtual worlds and the other thing is that a lot of the isekai anime genre is a lot about going into these virtual worlds like sword art online which also happens to be having a event in VRChat on like December 26th. In the United States, it's going to be December 25th. But for a one-day event, they're having a whole Sword Art Online event that's happening in VRChat as well. So you have this isekai genre of anime that is all about going into these virtual worlds. And so I think it's just embedded and infused into the Japanese culture. And there's just a different community-driven, communitarian perspective. And I do think that being able to express your identity more within these virtual worlds is something that also really resonates within Japanese culture that allows them the ability to be able to really be an individual when that's not always necessarily encouraged within their culture normally. But this is a context where they're able to really explore those aspects of themselves. So you see a lot more of that v tubing and be able to embody these different virtual representations of themselves that are able to explore different parts of their identity. that they couldn't otherwise explore. And so I think just to see the level of avatars and avatar representation and VR chat within itself and all the different innovations they've had with the avatars 3.0 and all these different expressions and emotes and everything else that you can add into these avatars. And there is this way that you can go in and click on an avatar, you can try it on and just look at yourself and go with other people to see what other people look like. And so you have all these ways in which that you could buy avatar representations of yourself and this is a limited time event a lot of the Corporate worlds will never come back because there is time limited content that's in there But sometimes they eventually bring back some of these virtual market worlds, but essentially it's like from December 19th to January 10th and This is your time to be able to go check out all this stuff. You know, they spend like seven months building up all this stuff. It's a time limited thing. So it's like, you better go and get what you want now. Otherwise, it's going to go away. So it's a little bit of like, trying to enforce this, you know, you better go check it out. And it creates a moment and event and actually brings a whole range of the community together. Certainly a lot of people from around the world, but especially in Japan, and here from the larger virtual reality community here, VR chat. So yeah, just the level of world building has taken to the next level from the previous years. And I think a little bit more of a linear style that I saw, at least from some of the big corporate worlds where you kind of go from a beginning, middle and end, and there's just like a journey that you go through and you just kind of want to complete that journey. And you just want to see what's next, which is drawing you through this world to be able to explore it and to be able to also see all the different exhibitors along the way. They don't want to create this open world where it's too overwhelming and too much where you just go in and it's hard to really find you around and they're trying to not make you get lost, but also make it more vast enough. So you do have that feeling of kind of exploring around and not too much choice. We can get off the path, but there's still enough things that I think create this satisfying journey by the end of getting to a world. I was like, wow, that was really quite satisfying. I could see myself doing that again and taking other people and just sort of going through it and seeing what their reactions are from different moments. And so I think it's something like that, that is really starting to innovate when it comes to exploring some of the true affordances of virtual reality, which is, making you feel like you're going on this adventure. And by creating that adventure, it draws this motivation for you to be able to go through. And they also, you know, happen to have all these different exhibitors and booths. And so the different types of world building innovations they're creating and trying to really find the true affordances of the virtual worlds and what makes it compelling and different levels of worlds as well. So just everything from like the the virtual market that may be just these smaller assets and then these booths are a little bit more sophisticated. And then the default cube is like the most that you're able to go into these different worlds. And the corporate worlds actually have a little bit more of being able to kind of go into these other worlds as well. And so, yeah, just ways of optimizing and designing all of this is also being taken to the next level in terms of just the world just are looking a lot better and more polished, more optimized and more interesting as well. And yeah, just ways that make it feel like you're going somewhere, which I think is not an easy task to do. Yeah, the other main final point that I would make is that this is such a community driven effort in terms of Theo, the founder, just hearing a little bit more of his backstory and that he really wanted to give back to the community and find a way to be able to allow the people that are involved within this VRChat community to make a living and to have their own creations be supported and funded. And so booth is this site that started in Japan allows these commissions and these artists kind of like the Etsy for commissions, but for art that's customized and to be able to be matched up to an artist to be able to have these custom creations. And in this case, it's a lot of these avatars that are being created. and that they wanted to originally just promote some of those different artists. So back in 2018, August 26th, they were able to have the first virtual market. And since then they've had about two a year after that and really iterating on this concept and idea and really growing and expanding and really evolving it each year after year. And yeah, just the whole e-commerce dimension of you going off to a second site and being able to pull up all these different tabs. There is a little bit of an interesting menu that they have that's custom built that allows you when you usually push the menu button or a jump, then it has this overlay that allows you to go from a booth and open up a website and be able to, if you actually want to buy something or even just see what they're selling. Sometimes they're not even selling anything. They're just wanting. to share like an experience or to share their art. And there's some free avatars, free assets, but also things that you can purchase and you can try on avatars. And there's different ways of doing QR codes, just a lot of ways of just how that even works. Lots of innovations that are happening there as well. And the other thing is that there are a number of different events in the world. There is a schedule of events. And so there is this. My Abby concert that was mentioned and there's a, yeah, just some different events that I think are also worth just checking out with the event schedulers. If you come in late and miss it, then you've missed it. So just be worth checking out what those are. And if you do want to go to putting it in your schedule and make sure you make some time, but this is an event that I think is good to go with a group of people because it is like an exploratory thing. And it is like a lot of little things that are happening in each of these booths. And. With VRChat, you can create your own private instances and kind of have your own adventure. So that's kind of nice just to be able to have that control and, or you could just go to the public instances and run to different people that are also discovering things as well. So yeah, really at the frontiers of identity and this maker creative culture and avatar culture and yeah, just what the trends are. I'd be really curious to just go to all these different booths and see what other emerging trends are happening from all these different makers and creators that are creating stuff. So, that's all I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast, and if you enjoyed the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So, you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

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