Social VR is expected to eventually become of virtual reality’s major selling points, but hasn’t taken off quite yet, as evidenced by the ups and downs of pioneering app AltspaceVR. Now owned by Microsoft, the multi-person shared space experience is expanding next month to another platform — Oculus’ increasing popular standalone headset Quest — in its drive to connect more VR users to one another.
AltspaceVR lets users choose been multiple “worlds” as backdrops, notably including a “Mega Church,” a cruise ship, a lost city, and improbably even the main castle from Super Mario 64, each providing the ability to meet up with friends or strangers in virtual form. Avatars are decidedly cartoony and fairly basic to enable headsets to render crowds of people at once, supporting both large group “events” and smaller gatherings. Multi-player games are also supported.
Oculus Quest users will be able to join the fun on September 12, the company said in a tweet, which, given strong user interest in Quest apps, could quickly add quite a few new users to the existing pool. As of today, Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality supports AltspaceVR, as do HTC’s Vives, Samsung’s Gear VR, and Oculus’ Rifts. There’s also a 2D mode available in a free app for Windows PCs; an Android app has been discontinued.
It remains to be seen whether any company will become truly dominant in the social VR space. Popular cross-platform app Rec Room came to the Quest earlier this year, while Facebook most recently brought one of its shared experiences — Oculus Venues — to the Quest, and Mozilla is offering a web-based alternative called Hubs. Each of the apps faces the challenge of building and maintaining enough of a community to serve as a critical mass for shared events.