Think about attending your company's annual party, or mass. The music is loud and people are laughing and chatting in their small groups. Many people are busy playing and having fun, or praying. The thing that is most impressive, however, is that both the parties and the churches are in virtual reality.
More and more events are being modified to fit into a virtual environment as virtual reality (VR) and its technologies become more widespread.There are already some companies taking a step forward: Next Insurance employees, for example, this one. 'year they had their company party with a mix of presence and Oculus viewers. How did it go?
Yes a little bit.
Next Insurance's virtual party showed a way to beat the so-called "Zoom fatigue", the fatigue that comes with excess video calling. Between a speech from the CEO Guy Goldstein and a series of games on a virtual mountain, employees from three different locations around the world (Kfar Saba in Israel, Austin and Palo Alto in the US) were all somehow together. The popularity of this approach is set to increase, especially among other companies. For now, it will allow a corporate gathering without the need for social distances or masks: what next?
These days it's all a flourishing of traditions: from Kwanzaa to Christmas to Yule, there are many opportunities to get together, but little chance to do so physically. Virtual reality offers a new safe space to get together and celebrate.
There is an unsuspected case where the benefits of virtual reality are used to their full potential: churches. The churches in virtual reality are becoming more and more popular, the "faithful avatars" can participate in the celebrations from a distance and get together together. A former pastor, DJ Soto, has been running for three years the first VR church of the world, opened in Las Vegas in December 2018.
Real faith, virtual churches
Soto founded this church about five years ago. It has seen an increase in attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic and due to the growth of interest around the metaverse. Although the VR church is Christian, it considers itself "non-denominational", not following strict rules of a specific denomination. Soto has helped found other virtual churches whose values vary widely, offering more options for any VR user. For the Christmas function, the VR church will have its avatar members travel to Bethlehem, where Jesus is said to have been born in the Bible. Soto is thrilled with this more engaging service as his avatar can participate as well.
Other Christmas celebrations of as many VR churches will not be so engaging. The VR adaptation of Sun Valley Community Church, an Arizona-based church, made a Christmas Eve mass just more elaborate than the traditional one. Advertising of the celebration camp alongside others on Horizon Venues, Meta's virtual platform for live events.
Virtual church masses (or virtual church masses, I have to understand the difference) might be frustrating, but they are a sign of what's to come. Meta, as you have read, is already reaching out to religious groups around the world to encourage more VR events.
The celebrations become "open", and from small churches it is possible to sing songs heard all over the world. A world that seems straight out of a science fiction novel.