Virtual Reality & the Metaverse: How Vircadia Bridges the Gap

Vircadia investor Steve Pruneau explains how this virtual reality platform is trying to win over skeptics.

virtual reality

Virtual reality and the metaverse are subjects on the tip of stakeholders’ tongues across numerous industries. And it’s easy to see why—the goal of the metaverse is to socially digitize aspects of your daily life. 

While at face value its applications may look like a video game along the lines of Fortnite or League of Legends, ultimately the metaverse aims to allow users to embody digital avatars that can accomplish any number of tasks. Whether with others or alone, you can hold business meetings, do your taxes, watch a movie, visit a trade show—the list goes on.

There’s no better way to bring users closer to this vision than through virtual reality (VR). With the help of today’s sophisticated commercial VR headsets and hand controllers, users can feel as if they’re truly present in a metaverse space in true, crisp 3D. All of a sudden, clicking a remote is more than just a mouse press—you move your hand over to the remote, grip it, point it at the (virtual) TV, then press the correct button to power the device or change the channel. Of course, VR headsets aren’t necessary to thrive in these virtual spaces, as the success of the multi-billion dollar video game industry has proven time and time again.

Innovators are opening a new path in virtual reality

The increasing ubiquity of virtual presence is the new frontier, especially in a world where digital communication and remote work are more commonly accepted than ever before. As such, marketers and non-marketers alike are looking for ways to lean into this reality and invite more people to their platforms and businesses. 

One such group is Vircadia, which describes itself as a community of volunteers developing an open-source platform that enables individuals and organizations to easily create and host a virtual world solution. It’s decentralized with servers running on the Windows and Linux operating systems, enabling hosts to quickly design and create a virtual world of their liking much quicker than a typical video game studio might allow.

Upon visiting Vircadia’s website, you’re greeted by a simple slogan: “virtual realities for one, for all.” This elegantly summarizes founder Kalila L.’s mission of bringing people together through virtual ecosystems. With each new update release, the developers of Vircadia are working to make the platform more visually lifelike, with stunning verisimilitude.

Open source is the bedrock of Vircadia’s mission: to put escapism into the power of the people, not big corporations. It’s why Vircadia is free, relying only on user contributions and sponsors for financial support. Their website proudly offers both a desktop and virtual reality interface for users to explore others’ worlds with, and will soon offer a web browser client—meaning even low-end PCs can come aboard Vircadia’s metaverse revolution.

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Vircadia markets the open VR future

This goal of freedom and openness in the digital space is paramount to Vircadia’s approach to marketing. Continue searching their website and you’ll find liberal usages of terms like “open source,” “community,” and “world.” Combined with the team’s commitment to decreasing the barrier to entry for the Vircadia platform, this marketing vision helps to make clear how serious Vircadia is about engendering a strong virtual community that can leverage the VR platform for a variety of applications. 

To learn more about Vircadia’s mission and marketing approach, I spoke with Steve Pruneau, founder of the business consulting firm Free Agent Source and a sponsor of the Vircadia platform. For Pruneau, Vircadia’s value proposition is simple and clear: “The metaverse should be free to everyone, just like the web. There are free tools to host a website: Apache, WordPress, MySQL. There are free browsers that anyone can use to explore the web. We want to ensure the same is true for the metaverse.” 

To accomplish this goal, Vircadia connects with its audience of netizens, VR enthusiasts, and open source fanatics through traditional channels such as speaking engagements, social media posts, and SEO efforts. By ensuring their communication approach remains as open as possible, Vircadia can teach more people about VR and the metaverse, and pleasingly invite them into the platform to experience a bold new world of communication.

Pruneau initially became interested in Vircadia because it solved a crucial problem his company faced: the need for a non-physical, interactive, and open collaboration space that’s more tangible than other digital communication platforms. 

He explains, “Having visual and audio queues which replicate approaching a group in conversation, immediately knowing how many people there are as you see them standing around, and hearing the way sound fades to the other ear as someone passes by; all of this is way better than Zoom or a phone call.”

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The platform brings everyone along for the ride

By positioning Vircadia as a metaverse for everybody, Pruneau believes that the platform has a stronger chance of attracting more people to learn about and understand the potential for the metaverse. 

This is in stark contrast to the “walled garden” approach—where access to a metaverse requires a proprietary company account or some specific hardware—embodied by other metaverse companies such as Meta. Pruneau compares this approach to America Online (AOL) in the late 1990s and early 2000s, where content created and uploaded through proprietary AOL channels could not be accessed by internet users not connected to AOL. 

Of course, there are other open-source VR metaverse platforms in development. Pruneau points out one in particular called Overte, which will be compatible with Vircadia once it launches. It differs only in how it handles cryptocurrency transactions for its economy. This embrace of platform interoperability differs from other metaverse-adjacent platforms like the games Fortnite and Roblox. For example, progress made on your Fortnite account has nothing to do with your Roblox account—the platforms are owned and operated by companies that likely see each other as competitors and therefore wouldn’t let the platforms interact with each other.

If successful, the metaverse could represent a fundamental shift in how communities and companies alike operate. By emphasizing collaboration and communication, open-source platforms like Vircadia stand a chance to alter the course of social media and business as we know it. With people like Pruneau championing the benefits of the VR metaverse, this social shift may just have a shot.

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Devin Raposo

Devin Raposo

Forever curious, Devin writes to learn. Before becoming a ‘Smith, he studied as a software engineer while honing his craft writing short fiction as well as acerbic cultural critique in the arts space.

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