Here we go again! August 22 to September 7, 2021, six teams of wildly creative technologists are building Virtual Worlds and inviting one and all to explore, co-create, and play in the digital dust. Welcome to the second in a series of conversations with the amazing humans who have dedicated their summer to building their World for the 2021 Virtual Burn. Learn about all the Worlds and get your tickets to the Virtual Burn here.
Say ‘Hello’ to the Infinite Playa!
Tell us about your World.
The Infinite Playa is a photoreal replication of the playa of Black Rock City that is geared toward the artists and creators and camps and participants who come to make Burning Man a thing. Our platform is about creating an emotional connection and giving people the feeling of being on the playa.
Tell us more about what people can do in the Infinite Playa. What kinds of adventures can virtual Burners participate in?
Helix: Where do we begin? There are definitely a lot of things to do. Of course we want to have some surprises for participants. There are, for example, mini games, which are games you can play inside of the experience, such as fire spinning, dancing and yoga and things like that. Then of course you can attend any kind of show or talk you want to see. There’s art exploration — just like at Burning Man if you were to go on an art walk or an art escapade, you can wander around the playa and check out amazing art from artists all over the place.
And then there’s the social nature of it, right? Which is probably the most important part of any of this — where you get to meet old friends, make new ones and check in with your community. That’s a big, big feature this year: a robust set of communication tools.
What are you bringing that’s new or different from last year? What can people look forward to that they didn’t experience last year?
Helix: Last year we built the Infinite Playa in about four months, really more like two months if you include bringing in all the art from the artists and whatnot. It was an insane lift. The only reason we even succeeded at all last year is because we were too naive to know any better.
So really what’s new about this year is that it’s the fully realized experience we were hoping to deliver last year, and frankly, didn’t have enough time to do. We were like one of those unfinished Burning Man camps that has a ton of potential, but just doesn’t quite get finished come Burn Week. This year we’re very excited about having a platform that feels solid. I think people are really going to enjoy it.
Elliot: It’s the social component that I think is really the add-on. It’s probably more than half of the experience. We’re really excited to see that component added into all the programming that’s already going on… all the music and art that people can already experience. Sharing adventures has such a greater significance for people — seeing where people are and joining them. You can say to your friends, “I just saw this cool thing. Let’s go check it out.” And you grab a bicycle or an art car and go race across the playa and go see what’s going on.
Helix: I will add one piece that was missing last year that I think people will be excited about this year, which is a teleportation feature. There’ll be certain places that you can teleport to quite easily on the playa. So you won’t have to run all over the place.
How do I get in? What software do I need? What hardware do I need?
Elliot: Really just a web browser, so that you’re able to go through any desktop or laptop computer to get to InfinitePlaya.com. Then you log in or create an account and drop into the character configurators; they let you spend all your time designing and styling and adding all the things you want to your character. And then from there you drop into the experience.
Project leads Helix and Elliot tell the world about The Infinite Playa:
How do you bring your Burning Man thing, whatever it happens to be, into the Infinite Playa?
Helix: On the website we have a pretty robust FAQ that addresses all of the onboarding processes. You can literally do it all — it’s automated. So you just sign onto the website, click our participate button and decide whether you want to come help, volunteer, add your project. You can submit stills of your paintings, of your photography or video content. You can submit your 3D models via FBX format, and then we can add those right in. If it’s a performance, you’ll be able to add it via camps who will be putting together lineups.
We’ll also have some open stages. You can upload through just about any streaming platform: YouTube, Vimeo, Twitch… Twitch is certainly our preferred format for uploading. We’re making it easier and easier this year for people to do that.
If you have a theme camp that you want to submit, again just jump on the website and hit the participate button. There’s a section for camps and art cars, and you can get us your models. If you don’t have a 3D model of your camp, we can give you a stock stage and do a little personalization with a logo or your camp name and then you can program for the whole week or a few days or whatever you want to do.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Elliot: Our whole ethos is to support the creators, right? This year more than ever we’re really honing in on: how do we support creators in putting their content out into the world in the best way possible, in a really compelling way, a way that makes them feel like, “Wow, this is like a real-life event.” All of these people who normally don’t have the ability to come to Burning Man, and certainly this year with travel still being challenging, all of these people get to tune in and see your art and see your performance and see what you built. I think that’s a really exciting thing to be able to offer to the community.
Cover image from the Infinite Playa, 2021 (Graphic design by Deets Shay)