Microsoft’s social VR platform, AltspaceVR, has been updated with a renewed emphasis on event hosting. While it’s always been possible to hop into AltspaceVR just to hang out and chat, the platform is honing in on a use-case where users come to the virtual world to see specific live events hosted by creators.

AltspaceVR was one of the first social VR platforms to grace the modern era of virtual reality. After raising more than $10 million in venture capital well before the first consumer headsets actually hit the market, the company nearly bit the dust back in 2017, but was saved in a surprise acquisition by Microsoft which at the time said it intended to build it into the “preeminent [AR/VR] community.”

That hasn’t quite come to pass, with other social VR apps like Rec Room, VRChat, and Bigscreen appearing to draw significantly more users, but AltspaceVR is now leaning into a use-case that’s been naturally developing on the platform over time: creator hosted events.

Image courtesy AltspaceVR

In the earliest days, AltspaceVR was effectively just a chat room, and while the social immersion afforded by VR is uniquely engaging, there wasn’t much to do beyond just chat with whomever happened to be logged on. And where social VR apps like Rec Room and Bigscreen have garnered sustained usage thanks to their respective focus on shared games and media viewing, AltspaceVR has been steadily expanding its focus around live, virtual events. The platform has been host to events featuring Reggie Watts, Bill Nye, and more, and now its streamlining things to make it easier for creators to host their own small and large scale events alike.

“We believe that social VR has the power to become the next major influencer platform,” the company wrote in its announcement of the updates. “In AltspaceVR the community is the content! It’s through events that Altspacers meet interesting new people, showcase their skills, share interests, and have memorable experiences.”

To facilitate this expanded focused on events, the app’s Main Menu has been revamped to make discovering and searching for events easier. The platform also now includes interactive billboards which serve to advertise upcoming events and can even be used as a menu through which users can RSVP to events or even travel directly to them.

Image courtesy AltspaceVR

Additionally, events can now be categorized by type to help users find more of the kind of events they like to attend: Presentations, Performances, Talk Shows, Watch-Parties, Gaming, and Meetups.

The AltspaceVR update also aims to streamline the process of creating and hosting events by improving the in-VR hosting tools to included simple event templates with descriptions, imagery, and pre-made environments designed around specific event types.

Image courtesy AltspaceVR

“Talk Show spaces will have all the furniture, microphones, and stage blocking set up. Presentation spaces will feature ready-to-use interactables like laser-pointers and instructions on how to showcase slides. As always, you’ll still have the option to customize your event as much as you want; but we’re also adding some helpful default options for those who are less interested in the set-up process,” the company writes.

One of AltspaceVR’s unique selling points as a social VR platform is its audience scalability. The platform offers a system called FrontRow which the company says is being “relaunched” as part of the update; FrontRow generates additional room instances on the fly—while allowing participants in each room to continue to see the main act in real-time—to accommodate events that draw crowds larger than one room could reasonably handle (both for performance and organizational limitations); AltspaceVR said previously that with FrontRow it could theoretically handle as many as 40,000 people in a single event.

Image courtesy AltspaceVR

To showcase the new features, AltspaceVR is hosting a live event featuring Alex Kipman, Head of Mixed Reality at Microsoft, and Katie Kelly, Program Owner at AltspaceVR. You can RSVP for the event here, and attend via SteamVR (Index, Vive, Rift, WMR), Oculus (Rift, Quest, Go, Gear VR), WMR, and even without a headset in 2D mode.

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  • Wednaud Ronelus

    One day we will all look back at this moment and laugh when we see that we were there when it all begun.

    Dr. Ronelus
    STEM Education Research Scientist

  • No offense… but how many times does this program need to be revamped?

    Last time I tried it was about a year ago, but it was clunky, unoptimized and people were scarce. Customization was limited at best too. Maybe I need to give it another try, but it just seemed a far step down from virtual spaces like Rec Room and VRChat, who even though have main focuses on creation “vrc” and gaming “rec room” have very strong social aspects. I feel like chat rooms like Altspace, while cool at first, lose their draw after a while, as people more and more want to go do things together, not just talk together.

    And again, VRChat is full of spaces to just sit and chat. I do that all the time. But you can also converse about what you’ve made for VRC in the last few days, what worlds to check out next, what new mini game or cool feature someone has dreamt up. I see very little of that from Altspace. Sure, they may have added some more avatars over time, but features still seemed very limited in comparison, last I checked. I think it can do a lot for business meetings that are more about presentations and less about what you’re doing in VR, but the more and more I see in VR, the less and less interesting presentations feel on a flat screen, something I remember happening a lot in Alt, showing people things on flat screens in a 3D space. just take me there.

    • wareFLO

      While I’ve not spent much time on the other social VR platforms you mention, I can share my experience on AltspaceVR. I too dislike being in a crowd of avatars watching slides, a video, or even a sage on a stage. Also, I had trouble finding others with similar interests. So two years ago I started a channel on which I hosted events about my interests hoping to attract birds of a feather. For each event I create a custom world and populate it with objects and content (textual, infographics, etc) to establish thematic context and stimulate conversation. Subjects, vary: climate, mental health, science fiction, even potatos (upcoming). Currently I have 128 subscribers and about 40-50 eventually signup (not all subs) for each event. About 20-30 show up and the quality of the conversation with requlars and new attendees definately keeps me motivatedto create new worlds to host new events. Regarding the occasional revamping, yes, occasionally features go away, but new features also appear. And sometimes old features reappear. However, overall, net, they’ve gotten more stable and featureful over time. Regarding size of the population, on the average, whenever I’m “in-world” there usually 3-20 friends on line. Of course that is just a subset since others online usually outnumbers us by about 5 or 10 to one. That’s just my personal experience. If you are interested, I hope you will attend one of our channel events and I’ll introduce you around! https://account.altvr.com/channels/healthcare Chuck (@wareFLO on Twitter)

  • gothicvillas

    AltSpace is full with weird people.. I’ve tried many times and looks like snowflake meeting place. I choose VRchat.

    • Trenix

      Something more weird than VRChat? Where 99% of the playerbase is male playing female characters? I donno, sounds like a snowflake fest.

      • PistonsForever

        Test

        • Debbra

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  • Cool to know. I think that AltspaceVR was already one of the best platforms to organize VR events, together with ENGAGE.

  • Altspace VR is good and bad. I think the bad is related to having very few developers working on it. The good is related to having a way to present things to people in VR and have a customizable environment for doing so.

    The bad is things like this:

    Try typing anything anywhere. It’s horribly bad. Try making a change where you want to insert the cursor in the middle of your text to make an edit. Almost impossible. Have to retype the entire line. This is terrible when you are trying to enter or edit URLs for web browsers.

    Presentations. They often require showing groups of people the same thing up on a screen. This requires syncing the on-screen content to all users in real time. To do so, one must use the Slides website or Google’s substandard offering.

    One would normally think a presenter could log into Slides and control the slides from inside VR. And you can. Sort of. But be careful. It presents mystifying problems with sync. You really have to log into Slides outside of VR and then control the slides via a computer while you are inside VR giving the presentation. This seems to avoid issues with sync, so all your visitors see what they are supposed to be seeing.

    But this process is riddled with trial-and-error before you can be confident in your presentation.

    You simply can’t do that in VR. Presentations should be dead simple to import and control from inside VR. Syncing should never even be a remote concern.

    This issue has been there FOREVER with Altspace. They absolutely REFUSE to budge on making improvements. Consequently, they are losing at least 90% of their potential user base. These issues require real determination to get past and most people are simply going to find other easier ways to present information.

    If Microsoft owns this company you’d never know it because they appear to have approximately 4 developers working on it. They may have access to a few more people building environment models, but the people working on the actual code base are absolutely minimal.

    That’s not going to fly.

    Facebook is going to wipe this thing out entirely in a few months.