Microsoft buys itself a 3D social platform it can tweak for mixed reality experiences.
For most people, virtual reality in 2017 means the promise of a new way to game and experience environments that simply aren’t available in the real world. However, some companies are looking beyond passive entertainment and experimenting with VR as a social platform. One of those companies is AltspaceVR, and Microsoft just saved them from permanent closure.
AltspaceVR’s offering comes in the form of an app. It allows you to enter a world via a VR headset where thousands of other real people hang out virtually. You can have a 3D chat, attend live concerts, a comedy show, play games together, and form long distance relationships without having to rely on just text or video chats. Compatibility extends to Oculus Rift, Steam VR, Google DayDream, HTC Vive, and Samsung Gear VR.
As TechCrunch reports, the problem AltspaceVR had was that it ran out of cash. The company actually shut down back in July when new funding failed to appear. However, a few weeks later an unknown third-party injected enough cash to keep things running. It turns out that third-party was Microsoft who decided to acquire them outright.
So why does Microsoft want a social VR startup? Because the company wants to differentiate its mixed reality experiences from VR. As a Microsoft spokesperson explained to TechCrunch, “AltspaceVR takes social networks, combines them with real-time experiences, and leverages immersive presence to transcend beyond sharing posts to sharing situations. Situations of people, places, and things have deeper meaning and in turn, are more memorable.”
It seems likely AltspaceVR’s app and the social places it creates will now be honed for a mixed reality experience. It’s easy to see how Microsoft could extend the 3D interaction aspect to bolster the Skype business offering and enhance virtual meetings. There’s also a lot of potential for Microsoft to use AltspaceVR to make its big events more accessible. For example, gamers who can’t attend the next Xbox event in person may be able to do so using a headset and this app.