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'Turn Off Your Phone!' I Attended a Press Conference in Virtual Reality.

Even in virtual press conferences, people who leave their phones on are still jerks.


I was crowded into a room with about a dozen other reporters, watching a guy give a PowerPoint presentation. Then I lifted up my goggles to take a sip of water.

This was the scene today inside AltspaceVR, one of the social virtual reality companies trying to make the metaverse happen. In a clever stunt designed to announce its new upcoming product — a version of Altspace for Samsung’s mobile virtual reality headset, the Gear VR — CEO Eric Romo convened a small group of writers in a room of the virtual world, with a giant screen behind him.

Shortly before the presentation began, AltspaceVR representatives hand-delivered Gear VR loaner units to the writers’ homes and offices. They are doubtless gossiping about our messy desks and apartments on Slack as I type this.

Romo’s presentation was in line with the company’s previous pitch: That people will want to socialize in VR, and that that will include sharing media like the PowerPoint. For one of his slides, he pulled up a YouTube video of some fruit company’s press conference, which was streamed live on the screen to all the people in the room.

The best parts of the event, though, were the things AltspaceVR couldn’t control. I did a couple laps around the room, tapping the side of the Gear VR to teleport from place to place, and several attendees found out that the microphones in their headsets were picking up a lot more than just their voices.

“Turn off your phone!” someone said when we all heard the familiar marimba jingle of an iPhone on someone’s desk. This was actually an inadvertently perfect demonstration of one of the announced features, HD 3-D audio, because within the virtual world, it sounded as though that ring was coming from my right. Out of reflex, I turned to look and glare at the offender.

The avatars within AltspaceVR are expressionless robots, so that was probably less effective than I would have liked.

This article originally appeared on

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