Well that was the most awesomely surreal press conference I’ve ever been a part of!
AltspaceVR today unveiled GearVR support for their social VR platform in an incredibly appropriate way, with the world’s first virtual reality press conference. The scene was rather impressive, a modern room with a large screen taking up most of the wall in front of us. Glass windows adorned the walls of the rest of the room with an ornate wooden floors. It looked almost as good on the Gear as it does on the desktop.
At the front of the room stood Eric Romo, AltspaceVR’s CEO, who was presenting via an Oculus Rift with a Kinect back at the AltspaceVR offices in Mountain View. Surrounding me are about fourteen other reporters and invitees for this special event, which went off almost without a hitch. I say almost because near the beginning someone, who shall remain nameless because we all appeared to be anonymous to each other, took to their mic loudly interrupting the presentation in mildly hilarious fashion. An event that showcased that not everyone is aware of social etiquette in virtual spaces. (Seriously, just mute the mic!)
During the presentation, Romo showed off some impressive functionality with the GearVR version demonstrating shared video playback as well as a shared browser feed. In the demo we had a chance to experience there was no user interface, but we were told that would be included in the final version and that it would be very similar to the interface on the desktop version.
The experience on mobile will remain true to the desktop version, with only small degradations in things like graphical quality. One of the bigger differences right now is the locomotion solution. Rather than utilizing a look and teleport solution, like on the desktop, the mobile version uses a short teleport step with each tap on the touchpad. The effect is actually fairly comfortable and worked well enough for the purposes of a presentation or social gathering.
The GearVR version of Altspace is not yet public, but a closed alpha will start “very soon,” with a full release “hopefully shortly thereafter.” Those interested can sign up at altvr.com/gear-vr.
Getting the demo to work on a mobile platform is no small feat and really improved upon the experience in my opinion. In the reporting game you have to go to a lot of press events like these. Usually it takes one of two forms, either you end up standing in line to get into a big room with a bunch of other people to watch a presenter on stage or you are at home watching on your computer via webcast. There are plusses and minuses to both, on one hand it is more engaging to be there on the other it is more convenient (and the wifi is better) to be at home or in the office. AltspaceVR’s method provided the same engagement (I found myself talking with my hands on multiple occasions, despite having no hand tracked input) with the benefit of convenience. Now if only they could add a way for me to take better notes inside….
This announcement comes on the heels of a $10.3 million raise by the company in July and represents the first in what the company is promising will be a busy week of announcements. During the presentation Romo teased that we might see something about customizable avatars Wednesday, so stay tuned for more.