Enea Le Fons
When I told you the story of me meeting Mister President Alvin Wang Graylin, I didn’t tell you the whole story (sorry guys&gals, it was a secret!): actually, he was in my city (Turin, Italy) because here there is an epic guy that is living 30 days inside virtual reality! Now that the info is public, I can finally tell you his wonderful story.
Everything started some time ago, when Mister president Alvin Wang Graylin predicted that someone would have stayed 30 days inside virtual reality. Then, Vive started receiving submissions from people wanting to actually participate in this crazy adventure and in the end, it selected one: the project by Enea Le Fons.
Who is Enea? Well, he is an epic guy, in all senses, since he has also worked for Epic Games (in the majestic Enterprise sector). He is a mix of a developer, an artist, and a business guy. If you looked at his curriculum on Linkedin, your jaw would just drop, but talking with him you would also realize that he is not only a very talented guy with which you can talk about AI, VR, gaming and such, he is not only a person that has a lot of relationships with important people in VR and gaming, but he is also a nice person with which is possible to have fun and joke a lot.
Being him in my city, me and Max have gone to his place multiple times to follow his 30DaysInVR experiment and we loved a lot to see his passion for VR, his crazy amount of ideas and also his ability to laugh a lot even in difficult moments. I remember funny moments with him, like the one when he had his back hurting and so I decided to become for a moment his masseuse and I massaged his back (I discovered that I’m better at doing massages than at developing… I don’t know if being happy with it or not…).
I also remember a lunch where we all together ate, talked about VR and had a lot of fun. But I also remember all the info he gave me about crazy experiments with artificial intelligence in China or about futuristic virtual reality headsets. I think you got the idea: having spent some time with him, I can tell you that he is a great person, a great artist, and a great techie.
And he loves VR, he loves experimenting and he also loves opensource and free software. He has this idea of making the world better, of letting people live freely and exchanging their expertise. He has this idea of a VR ecosystem that is completely free of chains. So he proposed to HTC to live 30 days in VR in a way that in these 30 days he could develop very cool things like AI bots and VR locomotion systems while being inside virtual reality with other people helping him remotely… and then share everything developed there to the community as open source software. Isn’t it cool? Yes, it is. That’s why HTC couldn’t do anything but accepting his proposal. This way has born the #30DaysInVR project.
The project was very ambitious, that’s why Enea has passed through a long stage of preparation with the help of his little team and of HTC, that is sponsoring and organizing the event: he had to organize the schedule of the event so that it could be interesting for the VR community; take care of organizing his days in VR so that his health had no possible risks; prepare a lot of experiences and experiments beforehand so that the community could see interesting stuff since Day 1 after the official launch and so on. But now everything is set and he is ready to develop virtual reality experiences, in VR for VR with us all. And then let all the artistic and technical creations be a permanent heritage of the worldwide VR community.
I had the occasion to live interview him during day 0 of this artistic performance and he told me a lot about his interesting vision for the future of VR. And he also told me that he really wants to use this #30DaysInVR experiment to create a lot of creative stuff with the help of all the VR enthusiasts of this world. Everything that he will develop, everything that he will discover, will be completely opensource, forever, for everyone.
And he really believes in the help of the whole community, that can meet him virtually and also develop with him interesting VR solutions, that may solve common VR problems (e.g. how to implement locomotion in a VR experience) or may create innovative VR scenarios (e.g. how to use VR into a discotheque). Here people must not develop to sell something, but just to innovate and to make VR evolve. It’s like an enormous game jam.
Of course he won’t stay 24h a day in VR for 30 days, this would be potentially too extreme for his health at this point of the technology (even if he actually told me that he would really love to stay for a month completely in VR). He has started with five hours of immersion each day and has incremented the duration of his immersions until he has arrived to many hours a day. That’s impressive.
He has asked for the cooperation of us all to his project: it is not a performance of only one person, but of the whole VR community:
We’re living in a time of exponential change and we have a big opportunity to exploit new opportunities to connect, visualize data, etc… We need to create a new metaverse and we need as many developers and creatives as we can to do that. VR can help us in creating a new universe, so join us!
His project is very… human. You can meet him, talk with him, develop with him. And then it is also very technical because you can contribute to create some amazing VR solutions that people from all over the world will use! 30DaysInVR is actually a big hackathon that lasts 30 days and encompasses a lot of aspects of virtual reality development.
The idea is the one of the whole world working together to take VR development to a next level. But it is more than a development project that it also tackles potentials issues in staying long-term in VR and shows the possibilities of working in VR, eating in VR, and eventually, living in VR. Because yes, during the days that he has already spent in VR, he has tried various experiments for eating, sleeping and doing everything with a VR headset on his head.
This picture alone is able to show how this project is able to mix art with technology
What’s more is that this experiment of #30DaysInVR will actually go far beyond the 30 Days! At the time of writing, Enea has already spent more than 30 days in VR (I met him and Mister President on March, 5th!) so that he could take things to the public stage only when he had enough data and material, with a lot of preset stuff to give for free to the community.
As I’ve said, he has not spent 24h each day in VR, but he has spent an average of more than 7 hours a day inside HTC headsets, mostly the Vive Pro. This event has already been launched in China various days ago and now he is coming here to the West, too. Enea is ready to go on, to stay 15-30 days more inside a headset, for even more hours than before, to develop with us all some components that can help the virtual reality ecosystem to grow together, in a completely open and distributed fashion.
Do you want some examples of what he and his team have built for VR? Well, visiting him I’ve seen a lot of wonderful stuff, like for instance:
- A part of his house completely re-created in VR thanks to creative low-cost photogrammetry solutions. During the event, he will publish a guide on how to create a 3D model of an object just by using an off-the-shelf webcam (or your phone’s camera) and a lot of patience. And then how to use this model to laser-cut a cardboard to obtain the object in real life!
- His own house, reconstructed in VR and then augmented artistically with flowers growing from the floor and with a big balcony opened towards an amazing valley or a dancefloor, for an artistic mix of the real and the virtual;
- Enea’s house recreated in VR. Do you notice that stage that appears beyond that wall? Well, this is a window towards a magical virtual world… it is a way to break the physical limits of his house in VR-Enea developing in virtual reality using Unreal Engine VR editor. He actually used the Unreal VR editor a lot and most of the scenes he has made have been developed or at least refined with this tool. He said that this editor is amazing and the results he has had prove that (see the above scene for instance!);
- A mapping of the virtual and the real house so that touching the virtual objects you almost touched the real objects (thanks to Vive Trackers);
Vive Trackers, Vive trackers everywhere
- Hardware, a lot of cutting-edge hardware: Vive Focus, Vive Pro, Vive Wireless Adapter, Vive Trackers, TPCast, Eemotiv brain reader, Lighthouse v2, 3dRudder, etc… I really can’t wait to see what they will be able to do with these innovative devices. It has also been interesting to talk about all this stuff with him: for instance, he confessed me that he has been able to do this experiment only thanks to the improved comfort and resolution of the Vive Pro: with a simple Vive 1 headset it would have been impossible;
SteamVR Lighthouses v2 in Enea’s house. Notice the fact that they are a not-for-sale sample… in that house there is a lot of experimental hardware!
- An experience made for DJing while in VR and also one made for clubbing. He developed a little app offering visual stimuli reactive to music and then went to a club wearing a Vive Focus. He danced as a true cybernaut and got the attention of all people (and even all girls) around him. He experimented the use of virtual reality in a completely techie-adverse environment like the disco and got an enormous success. He so discovered that VR makes immediately everyone cool;
Enea, being cool at the club
- A prototype of a social VR experience made completely using A-frame, to let everyone having a VR device or even just a simple PC meet in the metaverse by just sharing a link;
- An application manager for virtual reality that emulates AR inside VR. So, basically you have a VR environment (like his room) and then you can launch a lot of mini-apps that pop-up inside the same room… exactly as happens in the real world when you use AR glasses. The vision of this application is to let people experiment with AR from inside VR, that is a more affordable technology;
- Experiments with sleeping, meditating and doing yoga in VR. It appears that sleeping with a headset on is not that bad, especially if you use binaural beats. Waking up with a headset on may be disorienting at first, but soon the brain gets used to it and so can become a pleasing experience;
Enea while meditating with a Vive Focus on. That building that you see in the background is the Mole Antonelliana, the symbol of Turin
- Fitness experiences to run, climb and train martial arts in VR, both for the Vive Pro and the Vive Focus. Enea doesn’t want VR to become something that gets played while sitting on a couch, but wants people to move while wearing VR, wants VR to help their health. So he removed teleportation from almost all his experiences and let users move only by moving their bodies. The results of such a choice can be seen on Enea himself: while on a standard dev day he made an average of 700 steps, after this movement upgrades, he jumped to an average of 10000 steps a day, with peaks of 16000. His heart rate at rest has also lowered and this shows how his body is now healthier thanks to VR;
- 3D models, 3D worlds, artistic stuff;
- …and much more! The schedule he has for the 30 days and is all a W O W… everything you always wanted to experiment in VR, from locomotion to WebVR to AI to chatbots… Enea will try to touch every problem. I’ve experienced various of the above experiments. It’s all real. Of course, in just few weeks of this hackathon, the results will mostly be prototypes… but being them opensource in the future the community may transform them into complete libraries. Here you are a short video of me trying the locomotion and climbing solution coded by Enea and his team (the video is all in Italian):
And all of this without mentioning the fact that by wearing such VR devices for various hours a day and reporting all the problems with HTC, he’s helping in creating a better future generation of virtual reality headsets. So, what he is doing will also help VR hardware in becoming better. (Actually I’m also quite happy to see that it is possible to use VR for all these hours every day without bad consequences for the health…)
But Enea is not the only amazing person there: another fantastic person is Andrea Bay, that is managing and hosting the event. Andrea has been very kind to me since the very beginning and I very much appreciated the positive attitude he shares with Enea, the same willing of wanting to make the world a freer and better place. And apart from that it is also an amazing 3D artist and has shaped various 3D environments that Enea is using for his experiments. Together they are a fantastic duo and I want to hug them every time that I meet them.
To help them with coding there is Giacomo from the studio 34 BigThings (yes, the ones of Redout), who has coded with Unreal to help in transforming the ideas of Enea to reality. I appreciated a lot talking with him about VR and development every time I went to the studio.
And then, of course, there is HTC that is supporting them.
The core team of the project 30 days in VR: from left to right: Andrea, Enea, Alvin… and then there is an intruder (me)
And… well, even if only for a 0.0001% there are also me and Max. Actually, we’re not officially part of the team, but we found the idea so amazing and the people involved so pleasing that we started helping them as we could. We’re the first two people from the communities that have joined their project. For instace, I’ve helped in developing the A-frame social application (do you remember my rant dedicated to A-frame? It was because of this experience!) and the Focus clubbing experience. Now I’m also working to try to take also ImmotionRoom to the Vive Focus, to have full body VR with no cables or worn sensors.
I’m providing tools (my post about streaming the content of the Vive Focus has been made to help them!). I helped with brainstorming things. I’m spreading the word about this event on all the channels that I have. And I’ve also massaged and hugged Enea when he needed it, this was fundamental. All of this because I myself strongly believe in these people and in this project that will lead to a brighter future of virtual reality.
Thanks to this event, I had the opportunity to do a live interview with Mister President Alvin Wang Graylin. He himself was there to show his full support for such a fantastic initiative because it shares the same vision of VR of his. And he was also there to see his profecy fulfilled :). I made a video of this interview so that you can all be inspired by his words. You can see how I was really too excited of doing such an important interview and so I spent the whole time moving nervously all the parts of the body… but anyway, just ignore me and listen to the interesting things that Alvin has to tell you about #30DaysInVR!
I strongly advise you to see this video… but if you don’t have the time, here you are a summary of the transcript.
How has it all started? (0:34)
It has all started in 2016 when I predicted that in 2017 someone would have lived in VR or spent 30 days in VR. Some people approached us for this, but in the end, we chose Enea’s project because it was more viable, safer for his health and also there was this idea of sharing the knowledge with the whole world.
My vision is that in 5-10 years people will spend most of their times in a virtual (or augmented) environment. This experiment is a glimpse into the future, he is like the first astronaut going to space, but this time he goes into the cyberspace.
He and the other developers that will contribute to the project are solving problems that will regard all the society as a whole, they’ll create the path for all the people that will come to VR in the future.
We’re very supportive of this project and we’re providing hardware, software, small financial support. Our Immersive Media Lab has helped them in creating the schedule. I’m very curious to know what will be the results of this experiments. In the future, we’ll be glad that this experiment happened because it is setting the groundwork for something much bigger.
We can say that Enea is the first cybernaut of VR (4:22)
(Ok, let me explain this question… during the discussions of that day, Max invented this term cybernaut for Enea and I wanted to say that during the interview… :D)
How will HTC help this guy? (4:40)
Support, content, dev support, access to special APIs, hardware, software, consulting of people that have already studied the effect of prolonged exposure to VR, remote health check, promotion of this event…
We want this to be a study to understand the effects of long-term exposure to VR so that we’ll be able to remove all the issues in our headsets in the future.
Mister President touching the Vive Focus before the interview
How will you personally help this guy? (6:36)
I was part of the initial design of the experience. For me, the most important thing is the health of the team.It is also great that everything that will be created will be shared with the community and this is exactly what HTC wants: an ecosystem that grows together as quickly as possible.
I fully believe in the possibility of AR and VR to help society, to make people happier, healthier, etc…
Furthermore, I’ve given them my VR avatar and I will visit them in VR and I will also try to visit them again before the end of the experiment.
What do you think will be the next project? One year in VR? (8:38)
No, I don’t think it’s a problem of duration, I think that it’s all about people having the right mindset.
Currently, we have a technology, that is smartphones, that isolate us from the people around us. I would likeVR to instead enhance the connections with people around us, both physically and virtually. So, I want people to stop thinking that spending too much time in VR is a negative thing: if VR can make you smarter, happier, freer… being inside VR for a long time is a positive thing. And thanks to the feedbacks of pioneers like Enea we’ll be able to solve the problems of VR headsets so that when people will wear them, they will exceed their expectations.
We have studies on children that demonstrate that VR can be good for their eyes, can improve their creativity, can make them learn better. I am curious to know what happens if a person is exposed to VR for hours every day for a month… how can his life improve?
With VR, children could travel to a different location of the world without spending money… this is amazing.
We focus on room-scale VR, but why can’t we start thinking about a city-scale VR? A city that is completely scanned and mapped one-to-one with a VR environment so that we can navigate a whole city with a headset on our head… wouldn’t it be amazing?
The VR environment where Enea spends the most part of his time: it is a virtual reconstruction of the real house, but with some cool artistic additions
What about a world-scale VR where all people make a part of the world? (13:26)
It will be possible and here we’re starting something like that, with developers and creators that can contribute to this project by adding everyone a piece to this virtual environment…
Do you want to add something to my readers? (14:29)
This is an initiative to make VR healthier, more accessible, etc… And I also think that the potential of this project is that Enea wants to spend time inside VR to actually help the society, he is not playing games for 30 days. He is taking all big problems of VR… and he wants to tackle them one by one and sharing all the results with everyone. My wish for this project is that it will make the society healthier and better. This project is aligned with our vision of HTC because we want to create a better future.
(After that, Mr. Graylin invites you all to join Enea and his team and help them in any way is possible for you).
Talking with Enea and Mister President after the release of the movie Ready Player One, there was also a lot of talking about the parallelism between the cybernaut Enea and Wade Watts, the main character of Spielberg’s movie. Both are VR lovers, both would like to spend their life living in VR, both can wear a headset for hours and both believe in a decentralized VR world that belongs to everyone. In fact, Enea will spend some time in the next days inside Oasis beta, the metaverse available on Viveport inspired by the movie Ready Player One and this will close the circle. Is Enea LeFons the real-life Wade Watts? Well, as I’ve said to Mister President, in my opinion, he is even better…
The real and improved version of Wade Watts, his team and Mister President deserve all our support to help in making the VR world a better place. Please please please help them in any way possible, from just sharing about their experiment on your social media to actively helping in developing the code. I’ve seen Enea being tired and stressed after various days of immersion in VR, but he believes so much in the potentialities of #30DaysInVR that he is continuing to pursue his goals, so he deserves all our help.
A very tired Enea playing with his cardigan open… doing what he is trying to do is far from easy, but he doesn’t want to give up!
I’m doing my part by spreading the voice about the event with this and more future articles and by helping him with some development stuff. And you… what will be your part in this project?
ome on, take part in this VR revolution and involve all people you know inside it: we all must support the cybernaut Enea in creating a better VR world!
Here you are some of the channels through which you can follow (and support) him:
Don’t miss this opportunity! See you in the open metaverse.
P.S. Thanks to what Enea has learned during this adventure, he wants to launch soon the “7 Days in VR” experiment for everyone that wants to do something similar. But now I can’t spoil much about that… I’ll tell you more in a future article! Stay tuned!