vTime, the social VR app known for recently connecting Gear VR and Google Cardboard users, today announced support for the Oculus Rift in their cross-platform online app. Found in the ‘Early Access’ category of Oculus Home, vTime comes alongside AltspaceVR as the first social VR apps available through the company’s official marketplace for the Oculus Rift.
vTime launched late 2015 for Gear VR, and recently tacked on support for a number of Cardboard compatible smartphones—pushing their potential userbase into the millions. Starting today, Oculus Rift CV1 and DK2 users can get into the social app and start chatting (and sharing photos) with friends, family, or even perfect strangers for free.
Every social VR app is a bit different in how they tackle the challenge of creating online chatrooms, and vTime has taken a fascinating approach, feeling much more like an insulated social network than the bustling worlds of AltspaceVR, High Fidelity, or VRChat. In fact, vTime’s chatrooms, or what they call ‘destinations’, currently only hold a max of 4 people at a time, making it an intimate experience by default.
Destinations vary between interesting indoor spaces like a classy art deco train cabin, to outdoor spaces like a charming Parisian rooftop patio overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Most of the destinations contain randomly queued events like flocks of birds flying overhead, or in the case of the underwater environment, a school of curious fish.
While the new Rift-accessible environments use essentially the same mobile graphics you’d see on Gear VR, the addition of positional tracking really makes a difference in how your perceive the space. The destinations are pretty jaw dropping ‘as is’ considering the high amount of detail and polish initially squeezed through mobile GPUs. According to the studio, “future plans … include significantly improved graphical quality throughout and support for Oculus Touch controllers and other peripherals.”
vTime will be available for “all major VR platforms,” including HTC Vive (coming soon) and PlayStation VR slated to come at the headset’s launch.
Support for Oculus Rift follows a new feature that lets you upload up to 100MB worth of photos, be it 360 or a simple 2D pictures to show your friends, made shareable in vTime’s 360 photo viewer and ‘The Archive’ room respectively.
Getting Around ‘vTime’
Opening an account with vTime is painless, requiring only a few seconds to type in your email address and click a verification link. You may end up spending a lot more time styling your avatar, which features a pretty large array of skin tones and fashion items to boot. There aren’t any non-human avatars to choose from though, like dinosaurs or talking hamburgers, so you’ll have to settle for something decidedly more human.
From there, it’s up to you to decide how to use the app, whether it be a private means of chatting or sharing photos (both 360 and 2D) with friends and family, or talking to random users by toggling the ‘random match’ function, which allows any one of the “hundreds of thousands of users” from over 195 countries to send you chat invites.
Jumping into vTime yesterday, I immediately received several random chat requests, and had a quiet talk with a few German dudes who just picked up Gear VRs. Exiting the chat, I immediately received another request, which I declined. Toggling the ‘random match’ function, I was left to just the people on my friends list to chat with.
I’ve always had positive experiences with vTime, but really the only thing that irks me is the automatic hand gestures, a system that activates every time you speak. I like having control of my own body (fancy that) and watching my hands gesticulate by themselves is an odd experience. This is likely to change with the addition of Touch and Vive controller support however.
There’s no word yet on when or if vTime will support streaming video like Oculus Social, the company’s own Gear VR app that allows you to watch streaming Vimeo and Twitch feeds or play trivia. In fact, we’re still waiting for Oculus to bring Social to Rift and ‘socialize’ the Home marketplace so you can see what other users are playing or initiate a chat.
What is certain though is that vTime and AltspaceVR have beaten Oculus to their own marketplace as the first social VR apps to be officially supported for the Rift, and they’re doing it with style.