‘Bigscreen’ Social Computing Space Metrics Show Big Value for VR Power Users

Voices of VR Podcast – Episode #510

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darshan-shankarBigscreen VR announced that they raised $3 million dollars for their “social utility” VR application. Bigscreen gives you access to your computer screen in VR, which is a deceptively simple idea but one that is unlocking new ways of working on your computer and enabling collaborative social environments that range from virtual 2D video game LAN parties to productive work meetings.

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I had a chance to catch up with founder Darshan Shankar at Oculus Connect 3 last October to talk about his founding story, and how he’s designed Bigscreen with privacy in mind through encrypted peer-to-peer networking technology that he developed. It’s a formula that seems to be working since he reports that “power users spend 20–30 hours each week in Bigscreen,” making it what Shankar calls, “one of the most widely used ‘killer apps’ in the industry.”

Those are astounding numbers for any social VR application, and the key to Bigscreen VR’s success is that they’ve been providing a more immersive and social experience of 2D content ranging from games to movies, and pretty much anything else you can do on your home computer.

The latest release of Bigscreen enables you to have up to three monitors in VR, which could provide an even better experience of working on your computer than in real life. You can stream Netflix or YouTube on a giant movie screen while playing a video game, designing an electrical circuit, browsing Reddit, or creating a 3D model in Maya. In Bigscreen, you can basically do anything that you can do on your computer screen, but in VR.

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bigscreen-vrThe limited resolution of today’s headsets for comfortably reading text is the biggest constraint for now, but there are plenty of other tasks that people have found are more enjoyable in VR than in real life. It’s not just the immersive nature, improved focus, and unlocking the spatial thinking potential of your brain, but in Bigscreen you can do it with friends.

Adding a social dimension to computing in a private way is one of the keys to Bigscreen’s success. You can use Bigscreen by yourself without anyone else; you can create a private room using peer-to-peer technology such that what you’re actually doing in Bigscreen isn’t even being passed through any servers on Bigscreen’s side. And if you want to have a public cafe experience and connect with hardcore VR enthusiasts from around the world, then create a public room and see who comes through. It’s a wide range of people looking to do everything from connect socially and casually to recreating the cafe experience of increased focus that can come from working in public spaces away from the private context of your home.

Taking that all into account and based upon my own direct experiences of using Bigscreen over the last couple of weeks I can say that Bigscreen VR is definitely the leading contender to becoming one of the first killer applications of VR. It’s a social utility with the potential to connect you to friends, family, romantic, and business partners, as well as complete strangers who spend a considerable amount of time living in the early days of the metaverse.

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  • CazCore

    i HAVE spent way more time in Bigscreen than in any other VR app/game. by far.

    i’ve had several sessions of 6-8 hours at a time. sure am glad i have a super comfortable HMD which makes it easy. i would have never imagined wearing a FaceBrick could be bearable for such extended periods. (it’s a Rift)

    • Kacey Sherrard

      you mean the vive? the weight difference is minimal, you dont notice it and no problems for 8+ hours on end.

      • CazCore

        the point wasn’t comparison.
        the point was i thought ANY face brick no matter HOW well designed, would be inherently very uncomfortable. and i’m glad to be so wrong.

        i just mentioned it was Rift, rather than come back to answer the inevitable question.

        but i’m glad to hear at least 1 fanboy finds the Vive to be really comfortable. even most fanboys admit to several other drawbacks besides the heaviness issue.

        • Kacey Sherrard

          Not a fanboy, tried both, like both, weight didnt bother be is all. And for most people it doesnt if you end up using it regularly. The same goes for motion sickness, when better content becomes available and people end up using it more, we will stop hearing about any complaints about motion sickness and weight. (saying that weight never bothered me in the first place, i was surprised how light the HMD’s are, i think people think they are heavy by their looks)

          • CazCore

            i think you’re right about the looks. however in my case, i knew they could be light because i had both DKs, the DK1 was extremely light, despite looking super bulky. the DK2 was pretty cumbersome. i know the Vive is a lot more comfortable than the DKs. i’ve used it for about 15 minutes, and had no issues during that time.

  • My main concern is the resolution on this app. How has that been for people, and what are the plans to improve it? I’m going to get a Rift pretty soon, and I’m excited to try this platform out.

  • Claus Sølvsten

    Big screen is my favorite VR software. wish leapmotion controller would make typing the vr keyboard possible

  • Tried bigscreen and liked it… it’s very simple and works very well. Furthermore social VR is awesome!

  • Sam Illingworth

    Isn’t input quite hard? How do you know where the keyboard and mouse are relative to your hands?

    I’ve used this for watching TV, which is pretty great. I prefer the look of Valve’s own app for playing 2D games in VR (though the resolution’s too low to make that much fun), in no small part thanks to the lighting effects from what’s on the screen, which BigScreen lacks, but Valve’s product has no web browser.

    Suppose I could make a shortcut to a browser in Steam and launch it that way…

    • CazCore

      somebody told me that a specific theater room does light up according to what is on the Bigscreen. if true, i guess it has to do with needing the environment to have the right shaders, and most of the rooms you can choose from aren’t prepared for it.

    • CazCore

      and yes, using mouse and keyboard is of course inherently clunky.
      at least with my table setup.
      i think most people use the virtual mouse via the motion controller beam mostly. but that’s not great for extensive mousing.

    • CazCore

      there’s also an in-game keyboard that can be easier to deal with for light typing (left recessed button)

  • I think I’ve heard of it, but never used it.

  • wheeler

    This will be huge once we have (1) Lighthouse tracked keyboards and mice, (2) Higher resolution displays, and (3) better OS integration. By the way, I think (3) will be greatly improved upon by eye tracking but that’s implied by (2).

    Another thing that would help is dual HMD mounted cameras for proper stereo “inside out” viewing.