FRAME Beta 3: Onwards and Outwards
FRAME is a tool for immersive meetings, events, and classes, and it works from the web on desktop (including Chromebooks), mobile, and virtual reality. When FRAME started, it could support 4 simultaneous users and 2 kinds of assets that you could add to your Frames. With this update, it supports 100 simultaneous users and a dozen asset types.
Today, we have a massive update. I'll dive into all the details below. For those that are new to FRAME, we believe:
- that a sense of space and togetherness can enrich online gatherings of all kinds
- that online interactions can be more personal, playful, and powerful than a grid of video squares
- that the web browser is a first-class vehicle for powerful immersive experiences, and that the web always has been the key to the metaverse
So, what's in the update? Here are the bullet points, but then I'll dive into most of them in more detail.
- Add your own private voice zones to your Frames
- Add iframe overlays option for web links, so that people can click on a web link and the site will appear in an overlay on top of Frame instead of in a new tab
- A new toolbar user interface at the bottom of the screen that makes it easier to do a lot of common actions, like share webcam, screen share, add an asset to your Frame, and more
- Generally refined user interface (much more to come here)
- Two new incredible, spacious environments: the Morey Hall and the Resort
- For hardware that can handle it, high resolution versions of those new environments as well as the Solarium
- Add particle systems to your Frames to make stunning virtual effects like snow, rain, fireworks, and more
- "Go To User" feature that makes it easy to teleport right to another user in FRAME
- New avatar system with a lot changing behind the scenes to make them more performant, and then some visual changes like nicer eyes + a few more customization options (hijab and yarmulke included)
- "Presentation Mode" which is a one-click switch to set up a Frame so that only admins can talk, and everyone else in the Frame can listen. Frames in this mode can handle more scale than regular Frames
- General performance improvements
- Fly Mode that does exactly what you would expect based on its name
- An early pricing plan for those that want to do more in the beta period
Wow! How did we do it? We have an incredible, unique team of developers, artists, and community managers that I am grateful to work with every damn day. We are all so excited to see how you use these new features.
Welcome to FRAME Beta 3.0.
Add Your Own Voice Zones
Voice chat in FRAME is spatialized, so you hear people who are closer to you louder. than those who are farther away. In some of our environments, we have Voice Zones that are pre-defined areas where people inside them can't hear people outside them, and vice-versa. They are great for breakout spaces, private offices, and more. Up until now, though, you couldn't define your own voice zones. This was really limiting for those that bring their own 3D environments into FRAME.
Now, you can add your own Voice Zones to your Frames and position and scale them how you want. For those that want to see how it's done, check out this quick tutorial:
Use Overlays for Web Links with Iframes
We try to make FRAME more than just a meeting space. For those that want to create interactivity, we provide some no-code tools that let you make buttons that do a range of different actions. One of the most popular link types in FRAME is a "web link" that you can place on an image or 3D model. Until now, web links would only open in a new tab. Now, you can have the link open in an overlay that shows up at the bottom left corner of the Frame. Users can resize and even minimize that overlay!
This overlay isn't part of the 3D scene, and it's "local" in that it only shows up for people that click on the asset with the link on it. Just because you see the overlay doesn't mean other people do too.
It's worth noting that not all sites allow themselves to be embedded inside of overlays like this (iframes). Many websites do, though. Here's a blog post that includes some tips and tricks around this.
This is a really simple, effective way to do something like gather feedback from a google form, let someone pull up a Miro whiteboard, and let users pull up and interact with a wide range of content without leaving your Frame. Take a look:
New Toolbar User Interface + Other UI Refinements
There's a general balance we try to strike between making a wide range of features easy to use while still preserving a full view of the 3D scene in front of you. Many of the features in FRAME are tucked into the sidebar, which you can access from the button at the top right. We've moved a lot of the most commonly used features into a toolbar at the bottom center of the screen.
This toolbar will make it even easier for you to turn on your webcam, share your screen, add assets to your Frame, and more. We've also moved the emoji, microphone, and megaphone buttons down there to consolidate some of our buttons in one place. Here's the result:
You'll also notice subtle but elegant changes to our other buttons in the UI. They have more consistent rounding and padding, adding to a more unified visual experience. We still have some work to do here, but this is a huge step in a more consistent direction.
Two New Environments
We've got some brilliant, spacious new environments for you.
One of them is the Morey Hall. This environment was modeled after a location at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, and was built in collaboration with that university. We named our version of this building Morey Hall in memory of Katharine Morey, a Suffragist from Massachusetts who was arrested multiple times for protesting for women's right to vote. Jail sentences for Suffragists during this era were often accompanied by beatings and torture.
Morey Hall has a classroom, a gallery, and multiple floors for exploration. If you're on decent hardware, a more high-definition version of the model will load for you.
The other new environment that you'll notice is the "Resort". You're going to love it.
"Crispy" Environments and the Beginnings of Our Responsive Fidelity System
The FRAME art team makes fun of me because when I want our environments to look less fuzzy/pixelated, I say I want them to be "crispier". I'm happy to report that on hardware that we think can handle it, we load in "crispy" versions of a few of our environments: the new Morey Hall, the Resort, and the Solarium.
Beyond their sharp, clear beauty, what's really exciting about these crisp environments is that we are implementing a new system under the hood that helps us detect some of the capabilities of the hardware being used to access FRAME.
We are only doing a basic implementation of this system to determine which version of the environment to load. In the future, we'll be leveraging this system to do all sorts of stuff that will help FRAME both
- perform better on lower-end or mobile hardware
- look absolutely spectacular on higher-end hardware
Check the difference between the regular environments (up top) and the "crispy" version (down below). Pay particular attention to the texture on the floor and blue overhang.
We're excited to be able to let our artists' inspiring work shine brighter in FRAME.
Add Dazzling Particles
This is one of those features that no one really asked for but we built it anyway. We think some of you will love it, particularly those of you that dive deep to make your Frames have that extra sizzle. Particles are visual effects that often look like snow, rain, fireworks, smoke, and other graphics. They usually involve small animated shapes.
In this release, you can add particles to your Frames, and even use a sophisticated, no-code editor from Babylon.js to create your own particle effects. This feature deserved its own tutorial, so if you want to dig in you can learn more about it here. Here's a video of me using the particle editor to create the pixie dust effect you see in the GIF above.
You can watch the whole video from the beginning for a full tutorial.
New Avatar System: Eye It Up
The new avatar system in FRAME will look generally familiar because only a few key things have changed visually. Some of those changes are the eyes, which have become much richer, and some new customization options. You'll see a few new hairstyles, as well as a new Hijab and Yarmulke. You'll also be able to pick specific colors for a few different items.
Under the hood though, the avatars have undergone a dramatic transformation. The changes to the underlying avatar structure make them significantly more performant, which helps unclog one of the bottlenecks on our way to achieving massive scale in FRAME.
It also plants the seeds that will grow into letting users design their own avatar customizations, while generally making it easier for us to build new customization options for our avatars. The logo system is also more flexible, making it possible for us in the future to let you upload your own logo to the shirts, etc.
We know you want to have more people inside of your Frames. This update lets you have large interactions with a new mode called Presentation Mode. Presentation Mode won't make sense for every kind of event or meeting, but for events where only a few people are talking at a time, and most people are listening, Presentation Mode can be just what you need to achieve more scale - even up to 100 users at once if users are on desktop or a Quest 2. For those on mobile or lower-end hardware, things might get challenging around the 50-75 area.
In a nutshell, if a Frame is in Presentation Mode, it means that only people who are admins will be able to talk, share their webcam, or share their screen. Because not everyone is sending audio data, this lets you get more avatars in the scene. All users can still use the text chat, send emojis, move/look around, etc.
If you want to let someone speak on the fly, you would just have to make them an admin and they would be able to use their microphone. Then you can make them a regular guest again once they are done speaking, asking a question, etc.
You might be thinking, "Okay, this is great, and FRAME is the best product in the history of products, but what if I wanted to have hundreds of users in my Frame, with everyone able to talk...or Presentation Frames that can support hundreds of simultaneous users?"
To that, I can only say - stay tuned. We have been consistently increasing the scale that FRAME can handle since we launched our very first beta, and we have some things in store for early 2022 that will answer those questions - and of course present new ones. ;)
Go To User
You will now see a new arrow button in the Online User Menu next to each user's name, and you can click on it to teleport right near that user. We give a little confirmation pop up to make sure you really want to. It also works in the VR menu!
This feature was created to help you take gorgeous, aerial screenshots of your Frame. It's also nice to have a change of perspective once in a while. This feature foreshadows a lot of exciting work we have planned for your camera perspectives in FRAME. If you fly around, people will see you flying around. If you turn off Fly Mode, you'll return to the position in the ground that you were in when you started flying.
Teachers - we know that students will find this feature irresistible. Some of you will, too. You can enable or disable flying in your Frame settings. If people are flying when you disable it, they will come right back down to earth.
Note that turning on Fly Mode will entirely detach you from the navigation mesh - besides being able to soar in the clouds, you'll be able to move through walls. It's a super-power, not a bug (ha).
Early Pricing Plan
FRAME is still in beta, but we know that many of you are avid users who want higher capacity Frames or more Frames on your account. Right now, we limit the beta to 3 Frames, each with 15 simultaneous user capacity.
Now, we will let you unlock more - so long as you keep in mind that FRAME is still in beta. If you want more Frames, or more user capacity, send us a line and we'll link you to a page that will let you purchase an early pricing plan. Why don't I put the link right here? We are limiting the number of people that can get this plan, because we want to pay close attention to this early cohort of paid users. We'll be gathering feedback closely from this group and learning more about the value FRAME is providing.
If you want custom 3D environments, custom features and development, dedicated support, whitelabeling, or custom/dedicated hosting, you will still need to reach out to us (email@example.com works) and we can scope out what you need and a contract that goes with it.
Those of you that have followed us on our journey know that FRAME has come a long way so far in 2021. We have ambitious goals for the rest of the year and 2022.
We encourage you to follow along on our Twitter or Discord, and to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or thoughts. Mostly, we encourage you to dive in, create some FRAMES, and invite some colleagues or guests.
Onwards and outwards,
Gabe (on behalf of the whole FRAME team)
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