Microsoft is jumpstarting its social VR effort by acquiring AltspaceVR and its remaining team.
Altspace was a pioneering social VR service available on all major VR headsets as well as traditional screens. It allowed people to meet up in a virtual world together and play games or share other activities. The startup burned through a hefty chunk of cash and nearly shuttered in recent months before it was unexpectedly resurrected. Now we know why they kept the lights on.
Microsoft will continue the service.
According to Microsoft, “AltspaceVR will stay AltspaceVR. Microsoft is most interested in preserving the current community that uses AltspaceVR to connect and interact with new 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.”
While that might be the case immediately it is easy to imagine Microsoft fast tracking an effort to make its virtual homes into places where you can invite friends, or integrating services like Skype. Such advancements would help Microsoft match some of the most compelling aspects of competing VR platforms. For example, Facebook’s Spaces lets you call people in the real world through Facebook Messenger and conference them into your virtual world while Valve’s SteamVR Home offers a customizable virtual home where you can invite friends and show them your gaming trophies. If Microsoft’s Xbox ends up ultimately supporting VR that latter feature would be a fun part of the experience.
We’ll of course have to wait and see what becomes of Altspace over time.