Qianqian Ye is a busy gal. She’s an architect, a designer, an urbanist, a creative coder, a virtual reality developer, a cosmologist, a dinner party planner, and probably even more things that she hasn’t slapped a label on yet. The San Francico-based designer is a prolific creator of many things, from her past as an architect to her current role heading the design studio YE/S. With Ye’s latest pet project, she’s trying to bring a favorite social past time to VR.
“I like cooking for friends, so somehow I’ve hosted a lot of dinner parties,” Ye said. “I like connecting my weirdo like-minded friends together and trying to make some projects.” Dinner parties hosted by Ye aren’t the ones you’d imagine otherwise—you know, the ones with the awkward friend who chugs an entire bottle of wine by themselves. Ye’s dinner parties end up as a more creative affair, with the friends funneling into her studio post-meal (or sometimes even before) to tinker with miscellaneous knick knacks. Naturally, one of them was eventually a HTC Vive.
Dinner parties, at least for Ye and her pals, are more about sharing creativity than about the food itself. The food is the accent; the cherry on top of an enjoyable, creatively invigorating evening. “I started wondering, can I actually combine these two things,” said Ye. “Can I actually do this with them when they’re not in the city? Can I have them in this VR space with me, eating some sort of food, and having this similar dining experience when they’re not around?” And so Ye started building VR Supper Club, an open source social dinner party for VR.
While developing VR Supper Club over the course of the recent holiday season, Ye found herself drifting to audiobooks to soundtrack development. “I’m just like a nerd,” she laughed. “I was listening to this audiobook Ready Player One and I thought wow, the book has a lot of similarities between [what I was] building, because I wanted this social activity in this virtual space.”
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The world within the short demo of VR Supper Club is a shiny white virtual dining room. The table, at least at this point (though Ye wants to eventually make it longer, possibly on an “infinite loop”), is minuscule, only home to the chrome-hued food to virtually chomp down on. The not-quite-edible goods like “Nucleus Pumpkin” and “Matrix Bread” spin round and round on your virtual plate, before you start digging in with your utensils—the utensils taped to your controller that is.
“Currently how I attach my utensils to the controllers is a little bit hacky… I just taped it,” said Ye. “I think it makes sense to make it more user friendly [eventually]. Maybe I can 3D print utensils to my controller, so that would be easier to assemble and then I can give that to friend and they can do that as well.” For the future of VR Supper Club, Ye wants to actually implement the social features—the ones akin to her IRL dinner parties—where her friends can seamlessly join the table to dine alongside her. But as of now, VR Supper Club remains a lone hobby project, freely accessible on Github.
You can download the first iteration of VR Supper Club on Github, and see more of Ye’s work on her website. All photos courtesy of Qianqian Ye.