Some times ago I’ve had the pleasure to interview Michael Pazaratz and Cindy Aponte of Rave. What is Rave? It is a platform born with the intent of making people watch videos on the web together. For example you and your friends want to watch Youtube videos together: if you’re all in a single place, like a pub, that’s pretty simple… one person takes out the phone and let the fun begin. He starts playing Youtube videos, everyone watches them on the phone screen and in the meanwhile comments them, having fun. This is particularly awesome when trying to look together funny videos and commenting them saying amusing things.
But… how to do that when you’re not in the same place? Well, it is not easy: you should decide which videos look to using Whatsapp (or Telegram), then launch it all together and in the meantime comment over Whatsapp. Super-complex. That’s where Rave comes in: it offers a platform to look videos together, in a synchronized manner, and comment them live.
Raves takes the pub in your smartphone, letting you to watch videos from various sources (Youtube, Vimeo, etc…) and comment them live with your friends. This way it is possible to have fun together even at distance!
Ok, but… why am I talking about this on a VR blog? Well, you can easily envision why. This scenario of “watching and commenting live videos as we were in the same room” is very VR-like, that’s why Rave guys (& girls) have decided to perform a VR-porting of their app, that is now available also for Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream! Thanks to this you’ll be able to watch videos in VR with your friends! Since VR headsets out there are not that many, the app has been conceived so that to let complete interoperability between users on different devices. This means that VR users will be able to connect with standard smartphone ones and that’s great, because very few of us have friends with a virtual reality headset. VR people will live the experience more immersively, of course. If you remember well, this is a choice similar to the one made by Facebook with virtual reality social Facebook Spaces.
I’ve had the opportunity to make some questions to Rave CEO, to discover more about their app and social VR in general. This is my interview!
Hello, tell me who you are and what your app does!
I am Michael Pazaratz, CEO of Rave. Rave is a media viewing platform that combines the most popular mobile activities: watching videos and chatting with friends. Featuring content from YouTube, Viki, Vimeo, Reddit, Google Drive, and Dropbox, Rave powers everything from global movie nights to local music parties. With the launch of RaveVR, we are the first app that allows for seamless interactions between users in VR and their friends on iOS and Android devices.
VR is an exciting new frontier for media consumption, It’s amazing to watch videos on a 65” virtual screen, but feels too isolating. The solution, as our team sees it, is for VR users to watch with their friends on mobile. Rave hopes that VR’s small install base can be offset by ubiquitous iOS and Android devices.
How many VR users do you have?
In both Google Daydream and Samsung Galaxy Gear VR, we have 5K. We launched the app only 2 weeks ago. (Notice: I’ve made this interview some time ago, now there will be more)
Apps like Facebook spaces or Netflix doesn’t make (or will make in a while) this possible? Why should you be different?
- Content: Rave users have access to content from YouTube, Vimeo, Reddit, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Viki. Each content source is divided into categories to facilitate the searching process for users. We are currently working on adding more content sources as well. Facebook Spaces only enables users to watch Facebook videos, we provide more options.
- Cross-platform: Rave enables users to watch content together with friends, even if these are using iOS or Android devices. Rave users can invite an unlimited number or friends to their viewing party as well. Our goal is to enable anyone, on any platform to watch any content together with friends in perfect sync. We want to be a one-stop source of media consumption in a way that is social and interactive.
I understand the app for non-VR, but are people willing to put on a VR headset just to see a video with friends? Is there not too much friction in this process?
Analyzing your data, which statistics can you give us about your users’ preferences?
RaveVR users are primarily consuming short-form content from YouTube. The most popular genres include music, movie trailers, news, and gaming. The average length of each session is between 10-15 minutes. The majority of our VR users are located in Canada, the US and Europe.
Which is the content source that VR users use the most?
YouTube videos are very popular, specifically music videos. Since our latest update on Google Daydream, however, we have seen an increase in users watching content shared through Google Drive. This update is coming soon to Samsung Galaxy Gear VR.
Do you see a big cooperation between VR and non-VR users or usually VR guys hang out only with other VR guys and smartphone guys only with smartphone guys?
RaveVR has bridged the gap between VR and non-VR users, by enabling them to connect around media content. RaveVR allows users in VR headsets to watch videos and socialize with those on their smartphones. Regardless of device or platform, RaveVR aims at providing a social experience for all its users.
About your specific question, Rave doesn’t distinguish between VR and non-VR users at all. In the app, you’re just as likely to run into a VR user as you are a non-VR user. Many Rave sessions include both VR and non-VR users, communicating and viewing in perfect sync. When you first enter the app, everyone can see the same list of raves happening, whether in VR or mobile. Each new feature and content source we introduce to the iOS and Android app is also released on VR, to keep our userbase in sync.
Can I use the app even if I’m alone?
Yes, you can. You can access Rave or RaveVR and all associated media content alone or together with friends.
Can I see the videos even with people I don’t know (public rooms or something like that)?
Yes, you can. We offer four different privacy settings controlled by the leader of the rave.
1. Public: Anyone can join your rave.
2. Friends: Only your friends within rave can join.
3. Local: Only people near your location can join.
4. Private: Only those you invite can join.
If the leader leaves the rave, the next most senior participant will become the leader.
The current problem of VR social apps is that there are too few people with a VR headset. Do you find yourself with the same problem? And do you think in which year things will start to go better? 2019, as John Riccitiello says?
Our goal is to create technology to make media more social and interactive and this includes VR. When we decided to bring the Rave social viewing experience into VR we were aware that the number of people with a VR headset is relatively small. The answer for us was obvious: bridge the gap between VR and mobile users, enabling them to watch media together. As for when VR will come into its own, we believe that another two or three hardware cycles, and in particular the introduction of better user input methods, will make VR a major platform around 2019 to 2020.
What about porting for other platforms (Vive, Rift, Vive standalone, etc..)?
RaveVR is available on both Google Daydream and Samsung Galaxy Gear VR. RaveVR will be coming to the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, and more VR platforms in the future.
Tell me your opinion about the future of VR
We’re tremendously excited for the future of VR. Rave was one of the first 1000 backers for the original Oculus Rift Kickstarter and has kept up with the technology as it has evolved. The announcement of new standalone VR headsets at Google I/O is a particularly interesting trend, with the potential to bring millions of new users into VR. But improving the hardware is only half the battle; the software must evolve as well. Users are demanding less gimmicky VR activities, with more practical applications and, most importantly, social opportunities. This is where Rave comes in. Not only do we enable users to enjoy media content on huge virtual screens, but they can do so with their friends, inside VR or in the real world on tablets and smartphones. We are the first and only VR app with full mobile cross-compatibility, meaning users can watch, text, and talk with friends on their phones and tablets. There’s no need to wait until all of your friends get VR headsets, you can start socializing with friends in virtual reality today.
Something more to add?
We are working on adding more media content sources for our users to enjoy. We also recently launched RaveDJ, the world’s first artificial intelligence DJ. RaveDJ enables users to combine their favorite tracks to create unique video mashups. It is also available on the iOS and Android Rave apps, as well as at www.rave.dj.
I thank a lot Rave for this amazing interview. Some bullet points I want to highlight about VR in general:
- GearVR and Daydream are devices mostly used for watching videos: Hulu and Netflix are among the most popular apps…in fact they employ the remote, that is the ideal controller for this kind of headsets. That’s why a nice app like Rave, that has been conceived to watch videos together, has had its little success (5000 downloads in two weeks is not bad for a VR app);
- Support for multiple sources is good, but in the end people just continues to use Youtube or Facebook. This can be a risk for apps like Rave, since in the end Youtube could make something similar and create an issue for this startup. Something similar has already happened to VRideo, that in the end closed because of Youtube.
- We don’t know how interoperability between VR and non-VR users is going. I mean, Rave, as Facebook spaces, offer this opportunity, but we’re not sure how many people are actually interested in having it… it could also be that VR people prefer to hang out with other VR innovators. For sure, it is an important add-on that make VR users of Rave feel less isolated;
- VR users want more useful experience and start being tired of VR simple apps and VR zombie shooting indie games. They want useful and well-crafted apps.
- We all VR startuppers know that we have to wait. For now, we’re living hard times, since VR headsets out there are quite few. But we strongly believe in this technology and we hope that today’s sacrifices will lead to tomorrow leadership in the market. In the meantime, we can mitigate the problem offering crossplatform apps.
And that’s it! Have a look to Rave website and start having fun watching videos together with your friends!
(Header image by Rave)
Join my super-exclusive club!
Receive for free AR/VR articles like this + a weekly roundup of the most important XR news of the week straight in your inbox!