On Thursday, October 25th, 2018, High Fidelity announced FutVRe Lands, a one-day VR celebration featuring a host of activities and events to take place on VR Day, Saturday, November 17th, 2018.
Virtual Reality Day is a series of VR/AR events organized worldwide to help virtual and augmented reality become more mainstream. Any individual, company or organization can host a free public VR/AR event and become part of the Virtual Reality Day phenomenon. This is a completely voluntary and grassroots effort. It’s about bringing the energy and interests of the greater community together, and focusing that energy for the benefit of everyone on one special day.
– From the VR Day website
Billed as “a celebration of the communities developing in social VR. It’s an all-day binge of ground-breaking experiences”, the High Fidelity FutVRE Lands event will run from 12:00 noon through to 17:00 PST, and will include live music, performances. art, speakers, games and contests, ways to earn High Fidelity Coins (HFCs) and opportunities to win VR headsets.
Attendance is open to anyone with a home computer (via High Fidelity’s Desktop mode), VR headset or who uses Google Daydream. Attendance is free, but space is limited, so people are advised to reserve tickets sooner rather than later. Those in the San Francisco area can additionally register to attend the event in person.
Best Avatar Contest: show-off your best avatar creation and win US $1,000 (100,000 HFC), with two runners-up each receiving US $500 (50,000 HFC). Enter Here.
Favourite Domain Contest: do you know an amazing domain? Nominate it for the Favourite Domain Contest! The festival attendees will have an opportunity to visit it and vote for their favourite. The domain with the most votes will win US $700 (70,000HFC) Nominate Here.
High Fidelity’s next concurrency load test is due to take place on Saturday, October 6th, 2018. These monthly events are designed to drive avatar load testing within in a single continuous space within High Fidelity, providing the platform with a rigorous test as avatars meet, mingle, play games and generally have fun. The load tests are also a small part of High Fidelity’s The Road to One Billion in VR programme – seeing 1 billion people in VR environments (not just HiFi).
As I’ve previously reported, the events offer participants rewards in the form of High Fidelity Coins (HFCs) or a gift card or an Amazon credit – or, as with the September test, even have their rewards donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as a fiat money contribution.
Rewards are offered on a sliding scale, based on the number of participants, with the minimum value being equivalent to US $10. However, with the Saturday October 6th, 2018 load test, High Fidelity are offering some 15 volunteers to earn up to 30,000 HFCs (equivalent to Us $30) if they are willing to offer a maximum of 2 hours of their time in helping manage the event, by ensuring people participating are properly checked-in, and the company explains:
High Fidelity needs help checking-in all the people who signed up for the Road to a Billion event on Oct 6th.
Your job will be to roam the crowd and ask people if they signed up for the event and if so, check to see that they have automatically been checked in.
If they have not been checked in, your job will be to give them instructions on how to retrieve their Eventbrite ticket number so that you can manually check them in. We will provide you with the app to do all of this. Also, you will be given an avatar or shirt that will designate you as an official helper so that you are easy to spot and easy for us to tell people to find you.
This job pays 1500HFC an hour, and we need you to work for two hours. We advise you use Desktop mode to make this job easier.
Applicants need a good network connection, confidence using the High Fidelity client and a great attitude as you will be meeting lots of people!
If you’re an experience High Fidelity user, you can volunteer to help with checking-in participants by completing this volunteer form.
In the load tests thus far, High Fidelity have gone from 197 to 356 avatars all active within a single space, and the company is hoping to have more than 500 on-board on the October 6th, 2018. To encourage this, the event will include new games, plus a Best Avatar contest with a 30,000 HFC first prize.
Those wishing to join the fun can register via Eventbrite (separate registering to the check-in volunteers noted above), with the event officially kicking-off at 11:00 PDT (although people generally turn up earlier than that).
To find out more about these tests, read High Fidelity CEO Philip Rosedale’s blog post on them.
Yesterday I gave slightly late (my bad, it slipped my mind!) notice of the September 7th 2018 High Fidelity avatar concurrency load test.
The aim of these events is to enough as many people as possible to sign-up / join-in with an event held in a single contiguous space within High Fidelity (no instancing or sharding) and see how the system stands up to the load. The programme is part of what High Fidelity refer to getting “one billion in VR”, and it was hoped that the September 7th event would break the company’s previous record of 256 avatars, set during the August load test.
As it turned out, the record wasn’t just broken – it was shattered.
People had been encouraged to register and turn up ahead of the official start of the event at 13:30 PDT on September 7th, and a few minutes before the official kick-off, High Fidelity were able to announce the August record had been superseded with 262 avatars in The Spot.
That wasn’t all, by the end of the event, some 356 avatars were in the event region, raising the August record by 100 – not bad for a Friday afternoon when large swathes of the USA are liable to be at work, and many in places like Europe might be out and about at the start of their weekends.
Must of those attending had a good time; however, the event wasn’t all plain sailing.
Some people reported arriving and being unable to see any avatars at all. Philip Rosedale acknowledged the problem was at High Fidelity’s end of things, and they are working to address the issue.
The One Billion in VR road tests are a monthly event with High Fidelity, and gift card / HFC rewards on offer to those attending. To help boost numbers, events from October onwards will be held on the first Saturday of the month.
This means the next load test will be on Saturday, October 6th, 2018 at 11:00 PDT, and those wishing to participate can find the details and register via Eventbrite.
Updated September 8th: the record was broken, with a total of 356 avatars in the same contiguous space, as tweeted via the High Fidelity Twitter account. Read more here.
On Friday, September 7th, 2018 at 13:30 PDT, High Fidelity will be attempting to break their avatar concurrency record – which currently stands at 256 avatars in the same virtual space. The load test is part of the company’s drive towards seeing “One Billion in VR”.
These tests are handled on a monthly basis, with the September event offering a couple of enticements for those wishing to join in: the chance to earn gift cards (or an Amazon credit), or have the equivalent USD amount donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
People wishing to participate in the event will (obviously) have a High Fidelity account, and be in a position to log-in to the platform during the test period (commencing at 13:300 PDT, as noted). Registration is required, which is offered free-of-charge via Eventbrite. Registration, together with requirements for entry can be found on the Eventbrite website, with the nature of the US dollar rewards specified as:
Every registered attendee who checks-in at the event will receive at least $10 in Visa or Mastercard prepaid gift card, or Amazon credit, or you can redeem High Fidelity Coin (HFC) donate your rewards value to the ACLU.
The “at least” aspect of the reward value is due to the fact that High Fidelity is offering it on a sliding scale:
Up to 100 people // $10
100+ people // $15
200+ people // $20
1000+ people // $25
As well as the gift card / credit / donation options, those who prefer can take their reward in High Fidelity Coins (HFCs).
On top of all this, all registered participants have the chance to win a custom avatar created by Doob3D, and quoted as having a value of US $550.
Registrations will remain open to the start of the event, and new users are advised to go through the High Fidelity tutorial once logged-in, as this has a portal that will take users to the load test location, referred to as The Spot.
The event itself offers various activities and well as the means to meet other High Fidelity users, and is designed to be a fun activity with a serious edge. Following the August load test, High Fidelity published a short video of the event, which I’ve embedded below – note that it opens with a brief look at people checking-in to the event, which is required in order to gain the USD reward.
On August 23rd, Philip Rosedale announced High Fidelity users can now convert High Fidelity Coin (HFC) into U.S. dollars.
This is a major step for the blockchain based crypto-currency used by the platform, and for High Fidelity users. In the latter regard, Rosedale notes:
This opens the possibility for people to earn real money creating and selling virtual goods and services within High Fidelity. We see this as a vital step in the emergence of a thriving High Fidelity economy: the flywheel of innovation and creativity in any marketplace starts when creators have positive incentives to contribute to the growing body of content for sale. In time, we hope creators will be able to support themselves by selling items in the Marketplace, charging for the experiences they create, and offering useful in-world services to other creators and performers.
– Philip Rosedale, High Fidelity CEO
The move is one of three contained within the blog post, and represents the latest stage in High Fidelity’s development of a blockchain-based economy.
In late 2017, the company provided a roadmap for the development of the company’s currency and for IP protection within High Fidelity. Since then, the company has been building steadily towards presenting an infrastructure to allow comprehensive economic activities to take place within High Fidelity, including a comprehensive means to track and protect original IP on content. As such, the ability for users to convert HFCs to fiat money (US dollars) is part of this wider programme.
The HFC / USD exchange rate is fixed by High Fidelity at 100 HFC to the US dollar. The cashing-out process is currently a manual activity undertaken by High Fidelity in response to user requests made via a BankofHighFidelity appointment, as is explained in a FAQ included with the blog post. This FAQ also indicates:
It is not currently possible to purchase HFCs – but they can be obtained through the BankofHighFidelity once a user has set-up their Wallet, the focal-point for economic actions.
Those wishing to convert HFCs to USD can only do so for a minimum of 5000 HFCs per transaction, and must have a PayPal account.
HFCs cannot currently be converted into other crypto-currencies or tokens – although this (like the ability to directly purchase HFCs) is intended to be a part of the system in the future, again governed through the BankofHighFidelity.
The second part of the blog post is an announcement designed to encourage creators to get involved in wider content creation for High Fidelity:
Creators who have assets already developed, or who prefer to use go-to applications like SketchUp or Google Poly, can now import them into High Fidelity. We’re officially launching support for these applications and others alongside our trading services now that the entire workflow from creation to monetization is in place.
– Philip Rosedale, High Fidelity CEO
The high Fidelity website includes details on how to how to add content to the Marketplace. Supported file formats comprise: models – .FBX and .OBJ; images and textures – .JPG, .PNG, and .TGA; audio – .WAV (mono or stereo or ambisonic, 16-bit at 24 or 48 Khz).
The third announcement in the blog post is aimed at spurring the development of the platform as a whole through the launch the High Fidelity Development Fund. Initially comprising 1 million HFC, this Development Fund will be used to pay developers willing to help develop features and capabilities High Fidelity have defined for the platform.
Projects for these features are (and will be) listed in a public group on the cross-platform Telegram service. Developers interested in taking on a project can then indicate their interest via public chat with a proposed price and time-line for completion. Bids are reviewed by the High Fidelity team, and those gaining approval will receive a public notification of their acceptance. HFCs earned through the fund are eligible for cashing-out if the developer so wishes. Again, refer to the official blog post and FAQ for further details.
Taken together, these three moves represent further significant – and logical – steps in High Fidelity’s growing maturity as a platform, and which could see creators take renewed / further interest in developing for them platform. At the same time, the High Fidelity Development Fund further underlines the open approach the company is taking towards building-out the platform – which is itself becoming something of a signature element in Rosedale’s approach to developing tools and platforms.
High Fidelity, the social VR company established by Philip Rosedale, has netted a further US $25 million in venture capital in a block D round of funding.
The funding was led by Blockchain investment firm Galaxy Digital Ventures (US $20 million), along with Blockchain Capital, Vulcan Capital, Breyer Capital, and IDG Capital Partners. The funding round marks a further investment point for Vulcan Capital, the company founded by former Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. In 2014, the company led a block C round of investment in High Fidelity that raised US $11 million for the company. As a part of the investment by Galaxy Digital Venture, co-founder Sam Englebardt will join the High Fidelity board of directors.
We’re happy to announce today that we have raised $35M in a new round of investment led by Galaxy Digital, with additional participation from Blockchain Capital, as well as our existing investors. This round brings the total investment in High Fidelity to more than $70M and will enable us to substantially increase R&D and Hiring.
Part of the High Fidelity announcement of the block D investment round
The involvement of companies particularly focused on blockchain technology is perhaps indicative of High Fidelity’s own promotion and use of blockchain technology. In late 2017, the company announced its blockchain-enabled currency and IP protection plans, which was followed at the end of 2017 and early 2018 by the deployment of their commerce tools, currency and Digital Assets Rights (DAR) capabilities.
These tools and capabilities mean that High Fidelity users actually own the digital goods they buy, tying the goods directly to their digital persona. A key factor with the system is that it is completely decentralised, providing a high degree of redundancy and security.
As well as working directly on blockchain technology for their own platform, High Fidelity has also been the prime mover behind the Virtual Reality Blockchain Alliance (VRBA), a group of early adopter companies aiming to let users’ avatars move freely between platforms and bring their blockchain-linked purchases with them.
This broad-based approach to using blockchain technology for things like asset management, rights management and tracking, authentication, etc., as well as for management digital currency flow and exchange within the domain of virtual environments, is the thing that has investors excited as it offers a means of testing the kind of blockchain capabilities that could have far-reaching impact on our ability to interact and do business with one another through digital means (directly and corporately).
Virtual reality may be the first killer app for blockchain. It’s a global phenomenon that fundamentally requires a trustless consensus mechanism for currency, property and identity Ventures. That’s what the new generation of blockchain protocols like EOS enable, and High Fidelity has the vision, team and open platform to lead the worldwide transition from atoms to bits.
Sam Englebardt, founding partner of Galaxy Digital Ventures
In the meantime, with Second Life turning over around Us $700 million a year in transactions, Philip Rosedale doubtless has an eye on the potential of a whole new, and broad-based virtual currently capability – particularly as he sees a market of a billion people in around a decade’s time, engaged in VR spaces to socialise share, create, buy, sell, learn, and so on.
Even without the potential for blockchain outside of these virtual spaces, the $72 million so far invested in High Fidelity seems to suggest people are persuaded by his views and ideas – and the care with which High Fidelity is building-out its back-end systems to achieve their aims, rather than focusing on glossy front-end capabilities which can so often be a focus of user wants, is also perhaps testament to their determination to present a global platform.
Which is not to say the company is solely focused on back-end work. Recently, HiFi has been promoting a range of new experiences to demonstrate the broad-based social capabilities of High Fidelity, some of which echo moves by Linden Lab with Sansar. These include:
Nefertari: Journey to Eternity by CuriosityStream — students and adults enter an Egyptian tomb captured in 3D for a guided tour led by an Egyptologist (not unlike Sansar’s Voyages Live: Egypt experiences and activities)
Speaker Series — join the audience in an auditorium for discussions with prominent thought leaders.
RUST — a nightclub with live performances from DJs and an audience of people from around the world.
With thanks to Loki Eliot for the pointer.
Note: image of Sam Englebardt updated after K. Jewel pointed out that the initial image was incorrect.