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Demiplane’s plan to make the world a better place with virtual tabletop gaming tools

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Demiplane's plan to make the world a better place with virtual tabletop gaming tools

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When most role-players think of “demiplane,” they think of a couple of things: small places of reality where wizards and other beings have their hidey holes, and the most famous (and dreaded) demiplane of all, Ravenloft.

Adam Bradford and Travis Frederick want to folks to associate it with another idea: a safe, convenient way to play TTRPGs online.

Last month, the duo announced their new company. Demiplane is a platform for playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire: The Masquerade. But it’s not just another competitor for Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds, which are virtual tabletops for RPGs. It has tools for running what Bradford and Frederick think as better, safe games.

Bradford knows more than a bit about role-playing games and digital spaces. He was the cofounder of D&D Beyond and a former vice president of tabletop gaming at Fandom. D&D Beyond is a digital toolset for playing the world’s oldest role-playing game, with PDFs of the books, rules, and other materials, and a snappy character creator.

Frederick brings a different perspective: that of a lifelong player. Frederick was an All-Pro and Pro Bowl center for the Dallas Cowboys. And he’s loved TTRPGs for decades. He’s such a believer in how the hobby can teach communication, empathy, and problem-solving that he said he helped make Demiplane happen because “I am a firm believer that if everyone in the world played RPGs, the world would just flat out be a better place.” He launched Demiplane in 2020 with his business partner, Peter Romenesko.

As countries come out of the pandemic and relax restrictions on gatherings, people are beginning to play TTRPGs in-person again. But the pandemic showed us that virtual tabletops can be useful, fun, and powerful tools for gaming, enabling family and friends to play over distances great and small … or make new friends with people in countries they’ve never traveled to before.

This is an edited transcript of our interview.

GamesBeat: What is Demiplane?

Adam Bradford: Demiplane is a platform that brings together gamers, hosts, and creators in the tabletop role-playing space that can help facilitate and enhance gameplay for those people. We have a gamut of functionality that helps people. We separate it into three main categories: before, during, and after the game. Before the game, we have a space where you can prepare information about your game. You can find other players if you don’t have a full group. Or if you have a group and you lost a player, we have a matchmaking algorithm that helps match groups together based on different attributes. We believe that by using this algorithm, we can create better and longer lasting groups. During the game, we provide an online place where people can play that’s a voice and video solution that is specifically tailored for the tabletop enthusiast. We have tools and things around it that help keep the focus on what’s important at the table. That’s the people. There are so many different solutions out there that take the focus away from the people. These games, because of the nature of them, are about imagination and creativity and creative storytelling and collaborative storytelling among the people around the table. We help keep that focus. We have tools like shared and searchable journals, task tracking, inventory. We have different text channels so you can stay communicating while you’re in a game or outside the game. When you’re at work and trying to plan how you’ll take over that space station in next week’s session, you have that. At the end of the game we have a unique feedback loop that we call our ratings and rewards system, where at the end of the game you’re asked whether you had a great time with your game master, and you’re given the opportunity to tip if you had a great time. You’re also given an opportunity to rate the other players and provide awards to someone in the group. When you have those ratings built up, that feeds into the post part, which is you get to build up a resume, a profile as a tabletop role-player or a host or a game master of these types of games. It’s a unique thing that you don’t find a lot of other places, but it allows you to show quality. When you’re a game master and looking for people to join your group, and you’ve been playing a long time and you have a ton of thumbs up, your ratings are high, it’s going to be easier to find quality players. It’s the same as a player. You’re able to display that quality too. We find it to be a unique system that helps support tabletop role-players.

Above: Adam Brafford is one of the people making Demiplane happen.

Image Credit: Demiplane

GamesBeat: Is the thing that stands out here the tipping aspect, or is it the whole package that stands out in your opinion?

Bradford: For me it’s the whole package that stands out. The tipping is a unique thing we offer. We also offer the ability to charge for your games. Some game masters can say it’ll be five dollars per session per player. We have rules and safety measures to make sure that everything is fair around that transaction, so you don’t have people that have to pre-pay and don’t get a good adventure, or get a great adventure and ghost and never pay the GM. We keep them safe around there. Offering the opportunity to tip is just — in the old days when we used to all play around a table, people would bring chips or soda. I’ll bring the cookies, or my mom made a loaf of bread. It doesn’t happen that way when you’re online. This is a way to bring the group together and do something to show your appreciate for the hard work that the GM does.

Travis Frederick: One thing I would add there is that at the end of the day, we are aiming to make every part of the game better. That’s the mission we’re talking about internally, all the time. As a big part of that, what we have out there today is the tip of the iceberg. We’re going to be looking for any ways that we can, going forward, to make any part of the game better. What’s unique about what Demiplane is doing here in the very early stages is the way that we’re approaching that, coming at it through the play experience part of it. It’s not necessarily just trying to redo or reinvent the wheel that a lot of the VTTs or other ways that people are trying to play online right now–this is coming through, as Travis said, to focus on the human element of what’s going on in these games. That’s where the voice and video — it’s the same kind of thing that many of us are turning to with places like Zoom to play right now.

But Zoom wasn’t built for tabletop role-playing. This is an area where Demiplane can provide the things people are looking for in some of those other types of video solutions, but this is going to be tailored very specifically to tabletop role-players. The great thing is, as we start to introduce fans out there to how we’re going to facilitate the play experience, that’s going to allow us to get this wonderful community feedback loop, to see what the community needs to make that play experience better. That’s what we’re going to be aiming to do in any way that’s going to accomplish that mission of making it all better.

GamesBeat: By safety tools, are you talking about, we’ll guarantee that the adventure will be good, that the GM will be good, that the players won’t ghost, but what happens if you’re with players that ruin the experience? What can I do about that?

Bradford: We have a couple of different places where that safety piece is touched. First of all, and foremost, we are very committed to having an inclusive and safe and committed community that works to make it a better space. Not just our game and our system, but the space in general. This is an awesome group of people that plays these games, how inclusive and caring and how much they want to work together. It’s important for us to do our part to make sure that that space is upheld and kept safe. In the matchmaking process, there’s a tough thing there, because you’re introducing people to new people and allowing communication there. It’s important for us, whenever anyone is added to a game, there’s a chance to communicate first. A player communicates to the GM, and it’s not just an automatic, you’re in because of the matchmaking algorithm. We’re not just putting lobbies together. It’s to make sure the GM can get a chance to make sure it’s a good fit before they join the rest of the group and expose them to other players.

During the game, we have a hand raise button. Whenever anything during the game is going outside the bounds that you’ve set in your session zero or that you’ve discussed as a group, an anonymous notification comes to the GM that says, something has gone wrong here. An adventurer is uncomfortable with the current state of the adventurer. It allows the GM to identify what limits they’re approaching and pull the game away from those, or if the game needs to be stopped to discuss this, that can be done.

The ghosting and the financial piece there is, we just want to make sure that from a financial standpoint, when you give someone your Venmo and you expect them to pay you, there’s a trust that happens there. We’re trying to use technology to formalize that process a bit so you don’t have to trust that that’s going to happen. You know that the system will protect you in that. We give players a period of time even during the game to make sure that they’re interested in playing. If you’ve gone in and said, this is going to be a great time, I’m looking forward to it, and then you start a game and you don’t want to play that game anymore, you won’t be responsible for paying for that whole session. But on the flip side, when you commit to the game, you’ve been in the game and you’ve had a good time, at the end of it you can’t just leave and not pay the GM the agreed-upon rate. We provide those around there. And then last, in that feedback loop at the end, we provide the opportunity to say, did you have a good time or did you not? If you didn’t you’re required to provide feedback, and if you did there’s still a place where you can provide feedback that goes to the GM. We find that even right now, we’re having groups come on to the platform that have been playing for a long time, and because of this feedback loop that’s anonymous, they’re now submitting feedback that says, it would be great if you made sure that everybody had an equal chance to talk, or act. Sometimes one player is leading. These people have been playing for years, but they’re just now providing this feedback because of the feedback loop in there.

Again, we’re trying to make the game better. Having ways to communicate these things can help that.

Travis Frederick Headshot

Above: Travis Frederick is an ex-NFL Pro Bowler who’s a big believer in the power of TTRPGs.

Image Credit: Demiplane

GamesBeat: Does this also include ways to deal with a player who, say, just doesn’t know the rules, who’s doing things wrong and annoying everyone else? Or someone who has other things going on in the background and isn’t fully committed to what they’re doing?

Bradford: There’s a fine line of where you can enforce these things from a technological standpoint. We try to empower GMs to be able to control their table or their space. We provide the feedback opportunities for other players to get involved. You have direct messages. If the group is not comfortable with one of the players, the GM can stop the game and remove that player, or address it specifically with that player. We have a whisper feature, part of our voice and video, that’s unique to gameplay. When you sit around a table and something happens where not the whole group needs to know, only one player, the GM will often walk over and whisper something to that player. You can’t really do that online, so we have a button you can press that takes you to a one on one chat with the player you want to talk to. That goes in many different ways. You can use that in the game when you make an insight check on a goblin and that goblin happens to be telling a lie, or if there’s a problem and you need to step aside with a player to discuss that, you can use that system to do it.

Frederick: I joined Demiplane in the first place because for several years now, my prevailing goal in life, to be honest, is I am a firm believer that if everyone in the world played RPGs, the world would just flat out be a better place. It’s the kind of thing I look for when I’m interviewing candidates for a job. If I’m looking to be friends with someone in real life, it’s great if they check that box strongly, that they play these games, because of the social contract that is happening at the table, whether it’s virtual or otherwise, in these games. It makes people better at interacting with others. It makes us all better at cooperation and all of the important things that, again, translate into a real life out here. A big part of that is building a community that is passionate, that is safe, that is a place for people to go and be able to celebrate these things they love, these games they love. As I’m joining Demiplane, a big part of what I will be doing is spearheading the development of that community. All of these technology tools are a wonderful starting point. That’s what I’m excited about. It gives us tools that I haven’t had in my former life here, and everything else to be able to provide that framework, to have a healthy and thriving community. A big part of what I will be doing as I come in is engaging that community and building and cultivating it. That excites me, because again, where we’re entering this from the play experience side is a wonderful starting point to be able to build that.

GamesBeat: One example I’m thinking here is, say I’m a person who’s trying to set up a paid GM business. But I want to cater to children. I want to teach kids how to play. I want to be able to have a table where a group of seven or eight 10 year olds play. Will Demiplane have tools in order to not only facilitate that but also keep other people from joining or having the children adhere to the agreed-upon rules for behavior?

Bradford: First of all, when you’re dealing with minors, it’s a very sensitive subject. We’re very aware of that. Right now, on our platform, we do not allow minors to play for that reason. We’re dealing with matchmaking and bringing players together. But one of the things we make sure of with the chat and the way the matchmaking process works is that no player gets into the game unless they’re specifically invited. No one is going to randomly pop in and have access to the players in your portal. That’s important to us. We make sure there’s a gatekeeper between those things. In the future, if there’s an opportunity for us to be able to allow minors in, we have the baseline of these tools that we can begin to start to use to keep the pool even safer in those situations. We can provide opportunities for contracts or specific agreements for minors, or if there needs to be permission from a parent or guardian. Those are things where we can use the technology to assist.

Frederick: I have two sons. We’ve played these games for as long as they could read. I love running games with kids. I love the creativity on display there. I do think that’s one of those problems that we’d love to be able to help solve in the future. But as Travis said, we’re going to do that with the utmost care. I do think that’s something that would be on our radar in the future, but we’re going to approach it with the integrity that we need to, to make sure that safety is in place. The scenario you’re mentioning is something that I’d absolutely love to see, and we’ll see if we can get there.

GamesBeat: How are the mapmaking and presentation tools that you have different from what I can find on other platforms like Fantasy Grounds or Roll20?

Bradford: What’s important to note here is that we’re not attempting to compete with a place like Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds in a lot of the tools that they have to offer. As a virtual tabletop, they draw your focus to the table, to grids and maps and things like that. What’s important to us is keeping the focus on the people. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be using grids or maps or visuals in a lot of cases. One thing we pride ourselves on is being able to be sideways compatible with those tools. You can one-click open into your instance of Fantasy Grounds or the Foundry or Roll20, whichever virtual tabletop or grid system you choose. You can launch a game from within Demiplane to get to that in one click. Beyond that we allow our GMs to share their screens as well. A

lot of times, the GM will have their virtual tabletop available, or the grid, and during our combat, or when there’s a specific encounter where you need to use measurement tools and things like that, the GM will share their screen and take care of the virtual tabletop. Then they’ll often put it away again to continue to keep the focus on the players in those social situations or exploration or things like that. We try to do our best to work with and around these other tools to make the experience better. We’re trying to offer something that they don’t necessarily already offer, that can help players have a better time.

Frederick: That’s the important thing I’ll note there. What we’ve seen in the space — my ear has been to the ground for many years now. There’s a new virtual tabletop popping up roughly every week. You’re seeing it on Reddit, on Kickstarter. All over the place, there are many players that are trying to make the perfect virtual tabletop. What we’ve all seen to this point is that none of them are at that perfect point yet. We’re going to continue to see that evolve. If a new one pops up every week and that trend continues, we’ll get there one day.

As all of that is happening, we want to focus on, since it’s such a crowded space with VTTs, the areas where there are gaps, the things that the VTTs are not addressing, or that they’re not addressing well. That comes into a lot of these facilitation tools like video, the different kinds of chat, the other things that we have planned for the future. We’re trying to take a liquid approach and fill in a lot of those gaps in ways that are going to provide that value and make the game better. We want to work with those tools. There are many of them that we have our eyes on. We’ll see how that can continue to go in the future.

I’ve used all these VTTs. Even when I see one pop up every week, I go and I kick the tires. I try it out. I’m wanting to see what they’re offering and what they’re providing. I still come away from that experience kind of lacking some of the things that I’m looking for. I was discovering that I was simply turning to Zoom to run a lot of games. I was just sharing my screen when I wanted to show a map, those kinds of elements. We want to make that experience better for tabletop role-players, and then have that sideways compatibility, where if you do want to use one of the many VTTs out there, we’ll make that as easy as possible and keep that focus on the players around the table, while supporting the ways they want to play using a grid.

GamesBeat: Are you setting this up such that if I wanted to make some sort of animated video to introduce a new area or introduce a boss, I could play that inside the client that you’re running?

Bradford: I think you’re on the right track. Obviously, we can’t discuss all the things in the future road map. But we’re attempting to provide a space where you can do those types of things that you can’t do in other places, because they’re specifically made for these things. With the ability to share a screen, that’s pretty straightforward for the GM, to be able to share a video. As we continue to move forward, being able to integrate custom tools and options like that are things we want to do. We think that can enhance the experience for players.

Frederick: Another way to think about this, I have been in many online games, particularly since the pandemic started –I play in streamed games, at home, remote games over video conferencing. Before all of this started, I played in-person games at the office. All of those experiences are different. They come across differently in the game. But the thing that always unified the best of those games for me was when you had players, and especially the GM, who is running that game, that really takes to heart what’s on the back of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, which is inspire and entertain your players, that part of it. We’re going to pull out all the stops and listen to the community about what will help prop up GMs to be able to inspire and entertain their players. What you mention there is an interesting thing, and those are the kinds of things that we absolutely would like to support as we go forward.

Demiplane 3

Above: Heroes of the Planes is a liveplay TTRPG show that uses Demiplane.

Image Credit: Demiplane

GamesBeat: Another thing I think about, a lot of people play game systems that have video game counterparts — Pillars of Eternity, Dragon Age. Would you be able to use Demiplane to take assets from those video games to use them inside what you’re doing, through a license agreement?

Bradford: We can’t talk about any of those kinds of possibilities at the moment. What I can say is we understand that in order for us to be successful, we’ll be talking to the players in the space and forging partnerships where that makes sense, and where it makes sense to fulfill the mission we’re on, to make the game better and to facilitate the play experience itself.

It’s a very interesting thing you’ve come up with, and I’m not tipping that, hey, that’s the kind of thing that we’re exploring out there. But I wouldn’t say that that kind of thing was completely outside the realm of possibility. With technology anything is possible. It’s just a matter of how long it’s going to take, what resources you need to pull those things together.

That’s one thing that excites me about this. We get to customize what this technology looks like. It’s not driven by anyone else except for us and the feedback we hear from the community. That’s important. We want to make sure that we–the core of our mindset is to make every part of the game better. We use that as our north star. Is bringing elements from video games that are attached to a lot of these RPG systems a positive thing that will make the game better? Then this is something we should look at and figure out how to implement in our system. All things are possible with technology. That’s what’s so great about this.

GamesBeat: How big is the company at the moment?

Bradford: With COVID there’s a lot of remote work happening currently. We’re based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It goes back to our home and heritage. Peter and I co-founded the company, and we grew up 15 minutes west of Lake Geneva, which is obviously where [Dungeons & Dragons co-creator] Gary Gygax was from and where these games were originally created. We grew up as players and GMs ourselves. Adam can attest that he’s been a role-player and a game host for a long time. Those are the things from our background that we want to dive into, using that knowledge and experience to shape what the future looks like for us. We’re based in Green Bay, and it’s important for us to keep those roots. The team is up seven people right now, with the intention of being able to add more as we continue to grow and move faster.

GamesBeat: Did you come up with this idea before COVID?

Bradford: I wish I could tell you that we could have put this all together since COVID and move that quickly. I do think we’ve moved quickly, but this is something that was in the works long before COVID. Peter and I started in the spring of 2019, formulating and figuring out if this was something that was worth going after and sustainable. We wanted to build a tool that would be able to last. We founded the company in the summer of 2019 and we’ve been working hard on it since then.

GamesBeat: Where is your funding coming from?

Bradford: There’s a myriad of ways you can handle these things, but the core piece is that it was important to me and Peter to make sure that we could put ourselves in a position to do this right. Obviously, I’ve been very fortunate to be in a situation where I’ve been able to earn a nice paycheck and help get something like this off the ground. We continue to look for and find partnerships in the space and outside of the space that believe in what we’re doing and want to be a part of it, to be a part of changing the game and making the space better.

GamesBeat: What’s your road map for the next three months, what you’re trying to accomplish and get out there?

Frederick: We’re not quite ready to talk about that at this point. Keep your eyes peeled over the next few months and I think you’ll see some exciting things coming.

GamesBeat: The name Demiplane, is that indicative of how this is existing out there, but it’s a service that works with everything else? Kind of how Ravenloft comes in here and there, or other demiplanes.

Bradford: Yep, you hit it on the head. A demiplane is a place; we see it in a couple of different ways. It can be a gateway to a new place. It can be that pocket dimension. They can be spawned for whatever need that you have. It envelops all of those different ways to look at it. We see ourselves as the gateway to adventure. That means, if you’re a player that’s looking for a gateway to go through into an adventure, to find your next adventure, that correlates there. But also, we provide an individual and private pocket dimension for you and your group to focus on each other and play these games. It’s private. Nobody from the outside. Nobody’s jumping into your game, which is important from an internet security standpoint. And then the fact that they can be spawned for whatever need you have. It’s easy, two clicks and two questions that we ask to get you into a new portal. You can spin one up for the game you want to run tomorrow if you want. It’s important for us to be in the space. We think Demiplane fits in the industry, but also it’s a unique thing. It’s encompassing of what we want to do.

Frederick: And it just sounds cool, too.

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Tech

Varjo Reality Cloud lets you virtually experience a real place via ‘teleportation’

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Varjo is unveiling its way to teleport to virtual spaces today.

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Varjo is unveiling its Reality Cloud platform for virtual teleportation. That means one person can capture the reality of a space in a particular location and share that reality in extreme detail for a remote person to experience, virtually.

The Varjo Reality Cloud shares the details of a room in photorealistic detail, showing someone remotely located a view of the room in real time. Yes, you heard that. Varjo lets one person scan a 3D space and another person experience it virtually at almost the same time, as it can transfer the necessary data in compact streams of 10 megabits to 30 megabits per second with almost no time delays, the company said.

It’s a pretty amazing technology that comes from the pioneering work that Varjo has done in creating high-end virtual reality and mixed reality headsets for enterprises such Volvo, which uses it to design cars in virtual environments. The caveat, of course, is if the tech really works as envisioned.

“We are introducing Varjo Reality Cloud, and this is something very different from what you’ve seen from Varjo before,” said Timo Toikkanen, CEO of Varjo, said in an interview with GamesBeat. “We have been working on a software platform that is the first in the world that enables virtual teleportation.”

The earlier VR and mixed reality tech that Varjo introduced in the past couple of years now uses cameras on a Varjo VR-3 virtual reality headset to capture the environment around a person. Then it transmits that slice of reality to someone else who uses a headset to experience the exact same physical reality, but in a virtual way. If Varjo can deliver the Varjo Reality Platform with the same quality it shows in its videos, then it will feel like you’re “teleporting” from your real location to a virtual location.

“You can you can be anywhere in the world,” Toikkanen said. “You can scan your surroundings, not just a 3D object or something like that. You can digitize the world around you if you like. And do that in super high fidelity, through Varjo Reality Cloud, so anybody anywhere in the world can join you in that location and see it exactly the way you see it, in perfect color, with lights and reflections, and so forth.”

It’s no joke, as Varjo has been working on this for years and it has raised $100 million to date from investors including Volvo (via the Volvo Cars Tech Fund), Atomico, NordicNinja, EQT Ventures, Lifeline Ventures, Tesi, and Swisscanto Invest by Zürcher Kantonalbank.

“It’s a sci fi dream come true. But we are fully grounded in reality. So we have been looking at the at the experience. How can we enable people to have similar interpersonal experience as you do in real life, and do that remotely,” Toikkanen said. “What really accelerated for us during last year was the realization how world will never be returning to the same after COVID and travel will forever be changed. And we saw that this is one of those moments when world is more ready than ever for the transformation of this nature in the way the communication and interaction is done. This is the right time to begin that change.”

A realistic metaverse

Above: Varjo is unveiling its way to teleport to virtual spaces today.

Image Credit: Varjo

Toikkanen said that this capturing and sharing of reality is like a true-to-life metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One.

He said that you will be able to see in real-time what your friend is seeing in another place through the cloud-based platform. One person can map their reality by looking around in a room, and that view is transported to the cloud and rebuilt as a room. The person that you share this reality with can view it and feel like they’re there, Toikkanen said.

“It’s a metaverse grounded in reality,” he said. “It really is like the science fiction, beaming yourself to the other end of the world and back. And we think we think this is a really big deal. If you think of the economical and ecological drivers in the world today, something like this makes travel unnecessary.”

He said it could pave the way for a new form of human interaction and universal collaboration.

“You can engage on a completely different level than you have ever been in the history of communications,” Toikkanen said. “It really does change things in a big way. Both for businesses as well as for private individuals. You can teleport to other people, to your family,  or you can teleport to a work project.”

The system lets anybody scan their surroundings, turning them into 3D imagery using a Varjo XR-3 headset and then transport that 3D space to another person. That person gets to see the exact physical reality, completely bridging the real and the virtual in true-to-life visual fidelity, said Urho Konttori, chief technology officer at Varjo in Helsinki, Finland.

“It’s super important that the latency is kept low enough so that you have you feel that the interaction is logical, and that you don’t have like motion-related latency,” said Konttori. “We have put immense amount of effort into making it so that human-eye resolution, fully immersive stream, from the cloud, can be sent in 10 to 30 megabits per second speeds.”

This real-time reality sharing will usher in a new era in universal collaboration and pave the way for a metaverse of the future, transforming the way people work, interact, and play, Konttori said.

For the past five years, Varjo has been building and perfecting the foundational technologies needed to bring its Varjo Reality Cloud platform to market such as human-eye resolution, low-latency video pass-through, integrated eye tracking and the Lidar ability of the company’s mixed reality headset.

The company has already delivered these building block technologies in market-ready VR products that enterprises use to design their products. And now Varjo is uniquely positioned to combine them with Varjo Reality Cloud to empower users to enjoy the scale and flexibility of virtual computing in the cloud without compromising performance or quality.

Using Varjo’s proprietary foveated transport algorithm, users will be able to stream the real-time human-eye resolution, wide-field-of-view 3D video feed in single megabytes per second to any device. This ability to share, collaborate in and edit one’s environment with other people makes human connection more real and efficient than ever before, eliminating the restrictions of time and place completely.

Dimension10 acquisition

Varjo has been working on the Varjo Reality Cloud for years.

Above: Varjo has been working on the Varjo Reality Cloud for years.

Image Credit: Varjo

To further accelerate bringing the vision for Varjo Reality Cloud to life, Varjo today also announced the acquisition of Dimension10, a Norwegian software company that pioneers industrial 3D collaboration.

“We’re big fans of the company and have been for a long time,” Toikkanen said. “They have been pioneering collaboration, 3D models. And we think collaboration is at the heart Varjo Reality Cloud and us joining forces with them expedites progress.”

The Dimension10 virtual meeting suite is designed for architecture, engineering and construction teams and will become a critical component to making virtual collaboration possible within Varjo Reality Cloud. Dimension10 adds 14 people to Varjo’s team.

Additionally, Varjo added Lincoln Wallen to the company’s board of directors. Wallen currently serves as the CTO at Improbable, and he is a recognized scholar in computing and AI.

Previously, Wallen has worked as CTO of Dreamworks where he transitioned global movie production to the cloud, including the development of a cloud-native toolset for asset management, rendering, lighting, and animation.

Varjo Reality Cloud will first be available to existing customers and partners in alpha access starting later this year. For more information about Varjo’s new cloud platform and its vision for the metaverse, tune into a live, virtual event today, June 24, 2021, at 9 a.m. Pacific time via varjo.com.

Tech demos

varjo Press Image for Varjo Reality Cloud 4

Above: Varjo lets one person scan a 3D space and another person experience it virtually.

Image Credit: Varjo

In a video tech demo, Varjo showed a simplification to show how the world can be captured and streamed in real time as a 3D representation. It shows a time-lapse capture of a scene captured in real-time from a Varjo XR-3 headset. The video is converted into a 3D space that someone with a viewer and access to the Varjo Reality Cloud can use to see that room from any 3D angle.

In the beginning of the video, the user scans the room and then stops to watch Konttori give a talk. While Konttori is speaking, you see the naturalness of the movement, captured with just a Varjo XR-3 headset in the room, no additional cameras or recording devices. The camera is able to move freely as it’s all in 3D and not a flat video.

In a second video, Varjo teleports Konttori to the company’s Varjo HQ in Helsinki in mixed reality. A user wearing the headset sees the teleported Konttori mixed into a physical space at the headquarters. Later they mix the teleported surroundings together with the physical space in the headquarters.

Cool technology

Volvo is using Varjo headsets to design cars.

Above: Kia is using Varjo headsets to design cars.

Image Credit: Varjo

Varjo was founded in 2016, when other headsets like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive first appeared. But instead of targeting entertainment, Varjo went after enterprises with no-compromise technology.

It debuted its first VR headset, the XR-1, in early 2019 with human-eye resolution, or 1,920 pixels x 1,080 pixels per eye and an 87-degree field of view. That headset cost $10,000, but the company followed it up December 2020 with its XR-3 and VR-3 headsets that combined VR and augmented reality in the same headset.

That generation had twice the performance of the previous generation, with “human-eye resolution” of 1,920 pixels x 1,920 pixels per eye and a 115-degree field of view. It was also cheaper, ranging from $3,195 to $5,495 and it was available for cheaper enterprise subscriptions.

Now these headsets can be the jumping off point for the Varjo Reality Cloud, as they can connect to the datacenter and upload the scanned environment that someone can see via the cameras that are on the headset. The quality of the headset capture enables high-quality imagery in the cloud, Konttori said.

“We have innovated for the last five years on making that high fidelity possible,” Toikkanen said. “It links directly to the investment we have made on the headset side into gaze tracking, eye tracking, if you like, because that enables innovation. We have also invested in transporting the data between the locations, to the cloud and back, so that we can do this ensure high quality or super low latency. So that’s essentially what we are. We think of it as nothing less than the next form of human interaction.”

The hard part

Varjo is targeting professionals such as product designers with its XR/VR headsets.

Above: Varjo is targeting professionals such as product designers with its XR/VR headsets.

Image Credit: Varjo

“Nobody else is at the place that they have the hardware even near the quality that we have, let alone the software stack that allows us to actually pull this off,” Toikkanen said. “And we have of course be developing this simultaneously. And now is the culmination of all that work.”

Gaze tracking is important because if you can track where someone’s eyes are moving, then you know what they’re looking at and you can transport that view with low latency. That allows the company to create foveated transport algorithms, which means it only sends the data that you can see and that you are looking at, rather than other data that isn’t needed in real time at that moment.

“It’s a huge undertaking, and so we developed a year and a half ago a new way of doing that transport,” Konttori said. “The video stream focuses at the place that you’re looking at. That’s where we have the full resolution in the video stream. And then the degrades gradually from that towards the edges of the screen. And does that very quickly. It means that we can send the data that we send at the moment on cables from the computer to the headset, which is running at like 20 gigabits per second, and we can send that with our new compression technology at 10 megabits to 30 megabits per second.”

That means it works that you can share imagery with someone 2,000 miles away, Toikkanen said.

Enterprise applications

Varjo's XR-3 and VR-3 headsets.

Above: Varjo’s new XR-3 and VR-3 headsets.

Image Credit: Varjo

It’s a level of quality that is 10 times the resolution difference of other headsets out there, Konttori said.

“You get real-time presence because when we’re scanning, we’re just not just making a 3D model of the surroundings that you’re in and make that a teleport location,” Konttori said. “We’re actually updating that in real time.”

You could have a manager on a factory floor put on a headset. They can create a teleport node, and people from other countries can join and see what the manager sees. It’s all updated in real time and people get a sense they are truly at that location. They can fix the things that the manager is looking at, and then take off a headset and be at home.

“If you want to visit your family, it’s the same thing,” Konttori said. “You can share that physical location and people can instantly perceive the world as if they were actually there themselves.”

Once you scan a place, you don’t have to scan it again, Toikkanen said. And you can use any headset to teleport to a location, or use a phone and still have the freedom of movement to look around. But the Varjo XR-3 is the only device that can be the teleportation node that broadcasts and streams the 3D space to someone else.

Toikkanen said it’s like moving from the telephone to a video conference, and moving from that to something that is even more transformative.

“We think there are going to be a billion people using this kind of service over the next 10 years or 20 years,” he said. “We are in the alpha phase with real customers and partners this year.”

A cousin of the Omniverse

BMW Group is using Omniverse to build a digital factory that will mirror a real-world place.

Above: BMW Group is using Nvidia’s Omniverse to build a digital factory that will mirror a real-world place.

Image Credit: Nvidia

I asked if this would be a way to scan the world into Nvidia’s Ominverse, the metaverse for engineers that lets them simulate photorealistic details in a virtual world to test how they will work in reality. BMW is using the Omniverse for creating a “digital twin,” or a car factory it can design in a virtual space before it builds an exact copy in the physical world.

Toikkanen said that both tools are useful for the metaverse and they are complimentary.

“They’re both part of the like, movement towards metaverse, and this teleport functionality is adding a completely new node into the sphere of discussion of a metaverse, which is that one part of that can be the real world itself,” Toikkanen said. “And we make it so that you get the benefits of a metaverse also in real world setting. And we think that’s at least equally transformative as the metaverse which is typically seen only in virtual reality.”

GamesBeat

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Immutable will launch Ethereum token for Gods Unchained

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Immutable will launch Ethereum token for Gods Unchained

Where does your enterprise stand on the AI adoption curve? Take our AI survey to find out.


The gods are evidently fond of tokens. Immutable said today that the Gods Unchained blockchain card game will launch a new Ethereum token dubbed $GODS in partnership with Nine Realms.

Sydney, Australia-based Immutable will launch the $GODS token to scale its trading market and play-to-earn systems in the game. That means that players will be able to buy and sell the tokens in the game and gain a voice on how the blockchain game is run.

Immutable said this helps give players a stake in the game and its economy, shifting power from the developers to the players by providing in-game assets that players can actually own.

The $GODS token will sit at the heart of the game’s ecosystem, providing both in-game and external utility. At launch, $GODS will operate as a utility and governance token, giving holders a voice in the digital space, as well as active staking opportunities that allow players to earn rewards through gameplay campaigns. Over time, functionality will expand to embed the token within Gods Unchained’s play-to-earn game loops, allowing players to earn $GODS tokens by simply playing the game. I call this the Leisure Economy, where we get paid to play games.

$GODS will then directly interact with Gods Unchained’s nonfungible token (NFT) assets, which are new NFTs that players can wield in-game and trade or sell on the marketplace. That means that those games will have uniquely identifiable digital items that players can earn or buy or sell, allowing the players to own the items permanently.

Immutable X

Above: The $GODS Unchained token.

Image Credit: Immutable

Immutable X has created a marketplace for players in games such as Gods Unchained to buy and sell the items they have collected. Immutable X is the brainchild of Immutable, an Australian game team that runs the NFT trading card game Gods Unchained. Gods Unchained is an important NFT game, as it is built by a development team headed by Chris Clay, the former director of Magic the Gathering: Arena. Gods Unchained is a “play to earn” game, where players can earn collectibles over time, Immutable founder Robbie Ferguson said in a recent interview with GamesBeat. And they can make money by trading those collectibles, including the unique NFTs that can be proven by the blockchain, the secure digital ledger technology, to not be copies.

In the past few months, NFTs have exploded in other applications such as art, sports collectibles, and music. NBA Top Shot (a digital take on collectible basketball cards) is one example. Published by Animoca Brands and built by Dapper Labs, NBA Top Shot has surpassed $540 million in sales, five months after going public to a worldwide audience. And an NFT digital collage by the artist Beeple sold at Christie’s for $69.3 million. Investors are pouring money into NFTs, and some of those investors are game fans. The prices for NFTs have fallen, but many of those fans are undeterred.

As one of the highest-grossing blockchain games of 2020, Gods Unchained has logged millions of matches during its ongoing beta and boasts over 4 million assets. The token launch comes off the back of Gods Unchained’s latest expansion set, Trial of the Gods. That set completely sold out, and a new expansion is on the horizon.

$GODS is being created, issued and distributed by Nine Realms for use within the Gods Unchained ecosystem.

gods unchained

Above: Gods Unchained

Image Credit: Immutable

$GODS is an ERC-20 token that will interact natively with Immutable X, the layer 2 scaling solution for Ethereum trading. The Immutable X platform allows for peer-to-peer trading without the hindrance of gas fees, and will be expanding to include ERC-20 tokens once the $GODS token drops.

In 2020, Immutable partnered with StarkWare, a company that taps the benefit of using the Ethereum cryptocurrency and its security without incurring huge fees. Immutable X is built on top of StarkWare’s layer 2 scaling technology. Essentially, users don’t have to trust in Immutable lasting permanently in order to keep owning their NFTs — they can just trust in Ethereum. Immutable X’s mainnet is now available as the first layer 2 solution for NFTs on Ethereum, the company said.

Other solutions to Ethereum are creating alternative, faster cryptocurrencies with different methods of reaching a consensus. But these alternatives aren’t as popular as Ethereum. Another solution is to create a side chain, with a different kind of processing for transactions. But Immutable believes those solutions can fail because their security isn’t still as strong as Ethereum’s. If the security fails, then so does the authenticity of the NFT, and that would be disastrous, Immutable said.

For more information on $GODS, keep an eye on this link for updates around eligibility, distribution methods, and ways to claim and earn tokens. Immutable has about 100 employees, with 40 of them working on Gods Unchained.

GamesBeat

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

How will you do that? Membership includes access to:

  • Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
  • The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
  • Chatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our Discord
  • And maybe even a fun prize or two
  • Introductions to like-minded parties

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Survey-style measurement of IT isn’t effective, a ‘rigged lottery’

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Survey-style measurement of IT isn’t effective, a ‘rigged lottery’

Survey-style measurement of IT is a rigged lottery as it falls far short of providing a true measure of Digital Employee Experience (DEX).Read MoreK3d9ZEjzwis

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