The deal is a convergence of pioneers who have made their mark on the development of virtual life. Philip Rosedale is the CEO of High Fidelity and launched Second Life in 2003. Sine Wave Entertainment, the creator of Breakroom, got its start as a content brand in Second Life before it spun out to create its own virtual meeting spaces for real-world events.
Adam Frisby, chief product officer and cofounder of Sine Wave, said in an interview conducted inside Breakroom that the High Fidelity spatial audio will help Breakroom create a triple-A quality experience in a virtual world.
“The real benefit of having 3D audio in a virtual world like this is you can have lots of conversations going on simultaneously,” Frisby said. “3D audio is the only way to replicate the real-world experience in an online environment. You can have a 150-person conference and end up with 10 groups of people talking at the same time. That has helped us with engagement.”
Above: Breakroom lets an event host dozens of simultaneous conversations without people talking over each other, thanks to High Fidelity.Image Credit: Sine Wave
Most online events get engagement times of 20 or 30 minutes. But Breakroom’s average events, ranging from 600 to 1,000 attendees, have engagement times of an hour and 40 minutes, Frisby said.
Sine Wave’s Breakroom draws heavily on lessons learned in Second Life to create a frictionless, mass market, user-friendly virtual world.
“You can hear everything better with High Fidelity,” Rosedale said in our interview in Breakroom. “Breakroom combines low-latency server-side video and spatial audio in a way that lets you hold an event like it’s in the real world.”
High Fidelity is a real-time communications company. Its mission is to build technologies that power more human experiences in today’s digital world. The company’s patented spatial audio technology, originally developed for its VR software platform, adds immersive, high-quality voice chat to any application — for groups of any size. You can really tell how close someone is in a High Fidelity space when they talk to you, as voices become fainter the farther away they are.
“We are super excited about this general direction, and we wound up building the audio subsystem and extracting that first,” Rosedale said. “It works well where there is no possibility of face-to-face meetings.”
Above: I could hear Philip Rosedale’s voice clearly in this conversation in Breakroom.Image Credit: Sine Wave
Spatial audio in a 3D virtual world helps encourage spontaneous conversations in a fun, productive setting in a way that flatscreen video calls and webinars simply can’t match, Frisby said. It’s easy to tell in Breakroom who is speaking to you, and from what direction.
It took me a little while to figure out how to unmute my voice. Rosedale was jumping up and down while we were talking.
“It’s all remote rendered. And that means that we can bring people in on a variety of platforms,” Frisby said. “No matter what your target hardware is, you can actually get in here and still get good high fidelity. It’s a good quality 3D rendering experience here, regardless of what device you’re on.”
I asked Rosedale if he could hear me chewing lettuce, which sounded very loud on my headsets. He said no, but it definitely helps if you have good headsets with 3D audio.
Breakroom is being used by organizations like Stanford University, the United Nations, and The Economist. Breakroom runs on any device with a Chrome browser, offering good 3D graphics and audio quality, with no installation required.
Frisby said Breakroom is also a way for companies to enable remote workers to gather and meet each other in a more relaxed setting, as an intermediate space between online-only environments and going back to work in offices.
Above: Breakroom and High Fidelity are enabling conferences with spatial audio.Image Credit: Sine Wave
Its full suite of communication tools includes voice chat, instant messenger, and in-world email. It has video conferencing, media sharing, and desktop sharing tools. It offers a diverse range of fully customizable avatars and scenes, and you can get around just by pointing and clicking on the environment.
It also has event management tools to facilitate conversation and agenda flow, branded interactive exhibition stands, and private meeting rooms that are available for rent by sponsors. It features a range of environments, including dance clubs, beach and mountain retreats, casual games, quiz shows, and live music/comedy shows. And it has an integrated shop, where brands can upload and sell their content to customers for real cash.
It also gives you the ability to seamlessly license and import any item from the Unity Asset Store (Sine Wave is a verified partner of Unity). The iOS and Android version of Breakroom is in closed beta, and Breakroom for consoles and the Oculus Quest 2 is coming soon. It has LinkedIn and Eventbrite integration, including ticket sales, and a self-serve portal for customers to quickly customize and configure their organizations’ Breakroom, as well as sub-licensing agreements that enable Breakroom customers to host and monetize events and experiences to their own customer base.
Frisby said ensuring people don’t get kicked out of the room was a technical challenge, but his team has managed to refine the technology during the pandemic. He thinks conferences are great use cases for the technology because so many people come together simultaneously and push the tech to the limit.
As for High Fidelity, Rosedale believes the education market will warm to the technology and that the whole world will eventually move to better spatial experiences.