What is Virbela and Agora?
If you’re looking to create your very own immersive 3D world for you and others to enjoy, then look no
further than Virbela, created using the Unity engine by the Agora Inc. team. It is an online world for
you to create and for people to connect with. The idea for this was to bring people together digitally,
like you would in an office, campus, or event. In these times of lockdowns, something as wonderful as
Virbela is greatly needed to work and stay connected with friends and family, and the world as a whole.
The platform can support thousands of users at once in a single instance. If you have access to an
iOS/Android smartphone, desktops, and/or virtual reality (VR) headset then you are able to access this
amazing piece of software. You can think of it as a alternative to the Zoom app.
Virbela started as a concept. They were initially going to build it with an in-house engine using C++. But
as they progressed with their small team they ultimately decided to switch to Unity. They chose Unity
over others like OpenSim or even building their own engine, which would’ve put more work on their
plate. They went with Unity because it offers cross-platform support, rapid prototyping, and C#
scripting, which made executing their idea of a virtual world so much easier, rather than getting
discombobulated by all of the technical details of building what they needed to do it. They made use of
Unity’s existing ecosystem, as well as the Unity Asset Store to integrate the essential subsystems they
needed for their initial collaborative business relatively quickly.
Virbela looks to support as many users as they can in a virtual space to accommodate large meetings by
keeping users’ bandwidth usage as low as possible while prioritizing voice (and now video) traffic. This
has been extremely important for them. Virbela has aimed to bring the many university students
together in a virtual world during academic competitions. The company expanded to real estate in 2015,
powering eXp Realty, a digital-first real estate firm that connects its brokers via Virbela. eXp acquired
Virbela back in 2018, and hosted EXPCON 2020, the largest real estate event with more than 12,000
attendees from over 35 countries. Not only did EXPCON exceed expectations but broke Virbela’s record
for concurrent users on the platform – over 2,900 users.
As businesses want to bring events online during these times of lockdowns, Virbela’s has helped event
organizers create virtual versions of their events where attendees can create and customize their 3D
avatar, explore all of the venues, and network with others as they would in real life. Virbela also does
wonders for online classrooms. Where video calls are often a boring experience, Virbela brings elements
such as gestures, presentation boards, and breakout groups that create more of a realistic classroom
The Virbela team implemented the Agora SDK to video chat and screen sharing on its platform in 2020.
They went this route because it took the guesswork from managing latency, packet loss, and bandwidth.
It was easy for the them to integrate Agora into their existing Unity build. As a kind of bonus, Agora
helps to provide security, giving Virbela more tools to avoid bad actors, and protect people’s sensitive
information. With events, classrooms, and work becoming more of a hybrid of the physical and the
digital elements, platforms like Virbela will only keep improving and evolving as time goes on.