Altspace, the popular social VR app that is most notably compatible with both 3DOF and 6DOF VR headsets, is becoming efficient for users looking to get groups of people to connect and organize within VR.
On a technical level, AltspaceVR has received a series of updates designed for event organizers to host audiences on stages that can be broadcast to several consecutive “overflow rooms”, allowing hundreds of AltspaceVR users to attend the same events simultaneously. It also boasts 3D audio attenuation which makes conversations sound and feel real when immersed.
“It took a while before I first started talking to people,” said Vivian Chazen, founder and showrunner of The Hive, a talk show that uniquely uses Altspace’s VR presence to full effect.
“Within two months of joining, I started talking about what I do for work, which is working with older adults who suffer from isolation and loneliness, and how technology can help with that.”
“I did a program about my work, and from there I got involved with the community and eventually entered this talk show competition called ‘Who Wants To Be A Talk Show Host?’. It was in exchange for a custom avatar, which was awesome. I accidentally auditioned, and then I got an email saying I qualified for the semi-finals. That went well, I went to the finals, and now I’m here!”
By the time Vivian runs her 2018 year end event on December 27th, she will have completed an impressive 47 episodes of The Hive. Vivian credits her teammates Vince Pirone and Michael Zhang, both from the Altspace community, for helping her make the show a reality.
“The cool thing is that every time someone new comes on to Altspace, they’re really impressed with it. It hasn’t spread yet, so the fact that people still can come in (from outside) and immediately see the value in it, means that more people will continue to see the value in it,” said Vivian. “I wasn’t so much into gaming, so a lot of things are intimidating when you first go into VR. When you first go into other places, other avatars can be very jarring. Sometimes erring on the uncanny valley. They could be too big or too small, and it’s tough to adjust to that.”
“In Altspace, they might be cartoony but they allow you to dissociate yourself from real life. Eventually, your brain recognizes other avatars as ‘Okay, that’s just another person in front of me.’, and you get to know the people behind those other avatars. Even with the limited avatars, everybody is the same height and you get to focus on the other people. The style also helps mobile accessibility.”
In addition to regular live talk shows, AltspaceVR is also a place where celebrities have put together massive-scale public events.
“I was a pretty early Altspace user. It was the first time they did a large live show in a way that tested the multi-room ability. Reggie Watts was supposed to come on, and he had somebody opening for him,” said Joshua Young, founder and CEO of Design Reality PDX, a monthly Portland, Oregon networking event that regularly hosts panelists from the VR community.
“We’d been getting into the multi-rooms and they were having all kinds of tech issues; so much so that the event was delayed,” Joshua said. “What happened, because the audience was getting really angsty, we started heckling the (opening) standup comedian.”
“All of the sudden, this guy points into the audience. He pointed right where I’m standing and asked my name, and everybody turns and looks at me and he asks me what my name is. So I yell ‘My name’s Joshua!’. Then he goes ‘Okay Joshua,’ and he asks me a question. I answer him and he continues talking with me for a minute and we go back and forth. The conversation starts to go in a weird direction and suddenly we realize that we’re not in his room.”
“What happened was that somebody standing in the exact same position I was in, in his room, had actually answered his question with my name. We were all having this weird, trippy metaverse moment that was uniquely Altspace. I think it’s unique to the fact that they do mirrored rooms.”
Altspace is notable for its ability to give users this sort of live social experience with minimal hardware requirements, as opposed to other social VR apps such as VRChat and High Fidelity.
“What Altspace has done really well, despite being limited as a platform for people using Oculus Rift or Vive, is targeting accessibility when it comes to devices,” said Joshua. “Anybody with any form of VR can do Altspace; owners of Oculus Go, or Oculus Gear, or Daydream even. I think anything that enables any VR user to get in there, especially for a live event, is pretty cool. There’s a real need for that in the market because a lot of people in the market are going to have cheaper VR.”
But what about using Altspace as a gathering space for business meetings and professional events? Some companies are starting to use Altspace to gain traction with potential consumers, investors, and fans.
“We’ve met game developers and other programmers who have shown some interest in potentially using some of our tools and technologies for what they’re working on,” said Ryan Li, co-founder and lead UI/UX designer at Coin of the Realm, a blockchain startup.
“I’d say Altspace probably makes it easier for people to join. High Fidelity is certainly more flexible with building your own spaces and using your own custom avatars, etc. Which may or may not necessarily be an advantage for just a simple meetup. But we definitely want to be on both platforms. Both are uniquely cool in their own ways.”
“The Altspace community may have less people, maybe 5-25 people on at one time, but I feel there are more frequent events taking place at more convenient times of the day,” Li said. “But even when there aren’t events, sometimes you can still meet people around the campfire or in other rooms.”
Altspace continues to grow, with future events listed on its upcoming events page. You can download Altspace for all major VR platforms (minus PSVR), and you can even run it in 2D from your desktop.
Image Credit: AltspaceVR Inc.