HTC Vive Support Coming to Altspace’s Social VR Platform, Experimentation Ongoing with Gear VR

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I recently sat down with “Cymatic” Bruce Wooden, Developer & Community Relations Manager at AltspaceVR, a social virtual reality space that allows users to connect and communicate with voice chat and shared web browsing. While the software currently supports the Oculus Rift VR headset, Wooden tells me that the company is committing to cross-platform support for the HTC Vive and is currently experimenting with a version for Samsung’s Gear VR.

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Altspace’s avatars have undergone a facelift and now have arms when players are using a motion input device.

With cross-platform support, VR users with could connect to the same Altspace server and communicate with each other regardless of hardware differences. Though the company is committing to support for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive / SteamVR, experiments with Samsung’s mobile Gear VR headset are still pending optimization trials prior to the company making a firm commitment for support.

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In addition to new headsets, the company is also experimenting with input devices. The latest build of Altspace supports both the Leap Motion and the Kinect v2. I got to test the newest build and saw my arms and hands as tracked by the Kinect, allowing for coarse gesturing to other Altspace users, like waving, high fives, fist bumps, and handshakes with ghosts. Switching to the Leap Motion provided a similar experience but added fidelity down to the finger level, allowing me to gesture with more detail by pointing, counting on my fingers, or expressing my sincere dissatisfaction via a cross-cultural expression of disapproval involving one of my fingers.

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In the latest build I also saw the new examples of the software’s interesting web interface which allows 3D content to be deployed from the web such that multiple users can interact with it in a synchronized way. For example, I saw a giant chess board that was rendered into the game world looking like a 3D object just like any other, but Wooden told me that it was rendering right from a webpage with familiar web tech like Javascript and three.js. When other players moved the chess pieces, I could see the same pieces moving on my screen.

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Altspace has been available as a semi-private beta that’s opened its doors to users for special weekend events—like a recent virtual Superbowl party—but has returned to a private state shortly thereafter. Wooden told me that the company plans to soon move to a perpetually open beta where users will be able to use the platform whenever they please.

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“I would say we’re looking at a few more of those beta access weekends until we’re at the point that we’re feeling comfortable enough to keep it open,” he said.

Back in September 2014, AltspaceVR announced that they’d raised $5.2 million in seed funding to develop their social VR platform. The company as several full time jobs listed on their careers page.