Skip to main content

Skittish is a virtual event space built from the lessons of the pandemic

Skittish is a virtual event space built from the lessons of the pandemic

/

You might actually want to attend an event in Skittish

Share this story

Image: Andy Baio

XOXO Festival co-founder Andy Baio unveiled his newest project on Tuesday: a new platform for virtual events called Skittish.

Skittish looks like a very cute version of social spaces in video games like Second Life or VRChat but built specifically to host online events. You attend events as an adorable animal avatar, and explore the worlds created for you by clicking around with your mouse or navigating with the WASD keys on your keyboard like you might in a video game.

As you explore a Skittish world, you’ll be able to catch snippets of conversations or overhear something exciting going on thanks to spatial audio, which makes sounds fade in and out depending on how near you are to the source. (If you’ve played a game with proximity-based voice chat, it’s a similar concept.) If you hear something interesting, you can mosey over to it to learn more, like you might at an in-person event.

And if you’re the one organizing an event on Skittish, the platform is designed to give you lots of tools to craft a space that’s tailored to your needs. Baio showed me an early version of Skittish, and it was simple to place not just environmental objects like rocks and trees, but also entire screens playing YouTube videos and even portals to new areas.

Baio also sees an opportunity for Skittish to be used by creators to host things like private meetups for supporters or as a place to debut a new YouTube video or a song. And I could totally see it — with how flexible the Skittish spaces seem even at this early stage, I think there’s a lot of possibility for people to use them in creative ways.

“The project was inspired by Baio’s time attending virtual events during the pandemic”

The project was inspired by Baio’s time attending virtual events during the pandemic — many of which weren’t all that great, by his estimation. “A lot of them didn’t feel like events to me,” Baio said in an interview with The Verge. “They weren’t social in any meaningful way.” Some felt like “sort of like watching a YouTube video with a chat room,” while others had elements like breakout rooms that were intended to recreate a social experience that just weren’t the same as an in-person event. (And Baio knows how to pull off good events.)

But Baio still did see good event virtual spaces, like 2020’s Roguelike Celebration, which had a custom-built social space that resembled an old-school text-based adventure game, and LikeLike’s experimental online video game exhibitions, which include a “First Person Soother” and a pixelated gallery space / MMO. Baio also spoke highly of some of the hit games of the pandemic, such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which he played “like every day for months and months.” Those events, games, and the idea of using proximity chat all provided inspiration for what would eventually become Skittish.

Baio tells The Verge he plans to add things like text chat, moderation tools, and more customization options to Skittish. He plans to charge for the service and may offer a limited free tier at some point, but there are financial costs and concerns about moderation to consider with a free tier.

“You can’t just ignore the potential problematic uses of social spaces,” Baio says. “You can’t just say, ‘we’ll just open it up to everybody and we’ll just see what happens.’ You have to be cognizant of the potential misuse, abuse, and harm that could be done when creating a social platform. Having an unlimited free tier without having the moderation resources to understand how it was being used would be irresponsible.”

The project is still early, with no set timeline for when it might be available to more people. But if you want to help with beta testing, or just want to keep up to date on the project, there’s a mailing list you can sign up for now.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 12:00 AM UTC Dimorphos didn’t even see it coming

R
Twitter
Richard Lawler12:00 AM UTC
A direct strike at 14,000 mph.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) scored a hit on the asteroid Dimorphos, but as Mary Beth Griggs explains, the real science work is just beginning.

Now planetary scientists will wait to see how the impact changed the asteroid’s orbit, and to download pictures from DART’s LICIACube satellite which had a front-row seat to the crash.


M
The Verge
We’re about an hour away from a space crash.

At 7:14PM ET, a NASA spacecraft is going to smash into an asteroid! Coverage of the collision — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — is now live.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.


Asian America learns how to hit back

The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate

Esther WangSep 26
E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
Missing classic Mario?

One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?


R
Youtube
Richard LawlerSep 26
Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 26
Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.


A
External Link
Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.


J
James VincentSep 26
Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.

And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.


Soviet Colonel who prevented 1983 nuclear response
Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
J
The Verge
James VincentSep 26
Deepfakes were made for Disney.

You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.

Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans' nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.


E
External Link
Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

“An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.


R
The Verge
Richard LawlerSep 26
Teen hacking suspect linked to GTA 6 leak and Uber security breach charged in London.

City of London police tweeted Saturday that the teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking has been charged with “two counts of breach of bail conditions and two counts of computer misuse.”

They haven’t confirmed any connection with the GTA 6 leak or Uber hack, but the details line up with those incidents, as well as a suspect arrested this spring for the Lapsus$ breaches.