Microsoft has announced the acquisition of AltspaceVR, the Silicon Valley startup
behind a virtual reality social networking service of the same
name. The deal will be announced at a Microsoft press event
on Tuesday morning.
This news marks the likely finale of a dramatic few months for
AltspaceVR — and gives Microsoft’s Windows 10 its own
virtual reality social networking service as it
moves to compete with Google, Facebook, and others in the nascent
market for virtual reality.
Originally founded in 2013, AltspaceVR raised $15 million from
investors including GV (formerly Google Ventures) and Comcast
Ventures. The service provided virtual reality meeting spaces for
people to hang out, play games, and watch videos together.
Celebrities like Reggie Watts and Bill Nye held virtual
performances in AltspaceVR.
The app is available for VR headsets including Facebook’s Oculus
Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and the HTC Vive, plus the web browsers.
The company claimed 35,000 active users by the summer of 2017.
In July 2017, though, AltspaceVR suddenly announced it
was closing its doors entirely after a funding deal fell
through at the last second. Employees were laid off, and the
service was slated to be shut down.
A month later, AltspaceVR got an unexpected stay of execution:
The company said
that it had received some help from “third parties,” and
was able to bring back a few employees and keep the virtual
lights on. TechCrunch reported that Palmer Luckey, the
controversial founder of Oculus,
hinted at his involvement in the last-minute save.
At the time, AltspaceVR said it was “deep in discussions
with others who are passionate about AltspaceVR who want to
guarantee that our virtual oasis stays open.” Now, with word of
this Microsoft acquisition, it appears those discussions were
Now, Microsoft tells Business Insider that AltspaceVR will
be sticking around, with no major changes in the immediate
horizon. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
A Microsoft representative says:k
AltspaceVR will stay AltspaceVR. Microsoft is most
interested in preserving the current community that uses
AltspaceVR to connect and interact with n9ew and old friends.
These first few months will focus on fostering our community and
making sure AltspaceVR remains a friendly, welcoming and vibrant
place to hang out in virtual reality.
Other announcements from the Microsoft event include a new
Samsung virtual reality headset for Windows 10, called the
Odyssey, as well as the availability of a new “Halo” game for
virtual reality to be released as a free download in the Windows
Store on October 17th. Additionally, pre-orders for the
previously-announced lineup of Windows-powered virtual reality
headsets from manufacturers including Acer, Asus, HP, and Dell
are now open.