The catalog of mixed reality headsets. (Microsoft Photo)Microsoft has acquired a San Francisco Bay Area virtual reality startup ahead of a major milestone for its “mixed reality” push.
As part of a series of announcements at a event in San Francisco this morning, Microsoft said it is bringing in the team from AltSpaceVR, a social platform that offers events like comedy shows, yoga classes and dance parties in virtual reality. The company had actually shut down earlier this year, citing “unforeseen financial difficulty,” but Microsoft is bringing it back to life.
AltSpace hinted at its revival in a blog post in August, but did not give the details. The company said support from its fans and users led it to engage in “deep discussions” with “others who are passionate,” and ultimately that turned out to be Microsoft.
Microsoft representatives said AltSpace will retain its name so as to keep continuity in the community.
Microsoft’s acquisition comes as the tech giant gets ready to release the Windows 10 Fall Creators update, and with it “Windows Mixed Reality.” The update, set for an Oct. 17 release, will bring more than 20,000 apps and games to the Microsoft store.
Microsoft also announced a new headset from Samsung, joining its network of mixed reality devicemakers that includes HP, Lenovo, Acer and Dell. The Samsung HMD Odyssey includes a built-in microphone, headphones and motion controllers.
The Odyssey headset, along with the other mixed reality headsets, are available for pre-order now.
Microsoft is working with Valve to bring content from its SteamVR platform to Windows Mixed Reality. That won’t be ready for the Fall Creator’s Update, however. A developer preview begins today, and that will be expanded to a consumer preview this holiday season.
Microsoft has been developing its mixed reality platform for several years. The company introduced its flagship device, the HoloLens, in 2015. The device differs from the Windows Mixed Reality headsets in that it is available only to developers and enterprises at the moment.
Microsoft’s mixed reality effort includes everything from games to productivity apps. In a blog post, Alex Kipman, Technical Fellow of new device categories in the Windows and Devices Group, wrote that mixed reality will soon factor into every facet of life.
“We are standing at the threshold of the next revolution in computing,” he wrote. “A revolution where computers empower us to expand our capabilities and transcend time, space and devices. A revolution where we immerse ourselves in virtual worlds of our choosing and we accomplish seemingly impossible things, while making lasting memories with the people we love.”