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AltSpaceVR: Virtual Reality Social Platform

One of the major and binding uses of the Internet is social interaction. Networks such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+ provides people a platform to connect with others and exchange ideas. Usually the first thing we do when we connect online, is to check updates on our social networks. So how does Virtual Reality fit into this equation? This brings me to one company that is ahead of the game, when it comes to implementing virtual reality platforms for socializing online.

AltSpaceVR was materialized in 2013 with founders Eric Romo (CEO) and Gavan Wilhite (Director of Engineering). The goal of this virtual platform is to “provide the most complete, effective, and fun way for people to be together when they are not in the same physical space.”

In 2013 AltSpaceVR raised over $5.2 million from Western Technology Investment, Dolby Family Ventures, Tencent, Formation 8, Promos Ventures, Lux Capital, Google Ventures and more. With this funding AltSpaceVR was able to expand its team and continue development of the social platform.  In 2015, it raised another $10.3 million to accelerate the development and deployment of the virtual reality social platform.

The team part of AltSpaceVR’s success includes Bruce Wooden (Head of Developer & Community Relations), Carl Taylor (Software Engineer), Debby Shepard (Head of Product), Greg Fodor (Director of Engineering), Jane Fang (Director of Business Development), Jim Conrad (3D Designer), Jimmy Zhang (Software Engineer), John Shaughnessy (Software Engineer), Kat Yu (3D Artist), Katie Kelly (Product Marketing), Kevin Lee (Software Engineer), Lisa Brookshire ( Recruiter), Marshall Quander (Software Engineer), Mary Mossey (Product Manager), nate Barsetti (User Operations Mananger), Nick Cottrell (Interaction Designer), Patrick Arnesen (Software Engineer), Ro Carbone (Head of HR), Sohail Shafii (Software Engineer), Tejus Kudari (Software Engineer), Ting Ting Wu (Software Engineer), Tony Sheng (Product Marketing) and Travis Fike (3D Artist). Pretty impressive and they are continually searching for talented individuals to join their progress.

The virtual platform has been utilized by people from over 50 countries. AltSpaceVR supports the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung GearVR, Leap Motion, Perception Neuron and Microsoft Kinect. Connecting to AltSpaceVr with these immersive interfaces grants you the ability to “Nod, shake, laugh, wave. Talk, glance, whisper, cheek kiss. Learn, jump, fist bump.” The avatar becomes you and you the avatar. This seamless connection to the virtual environments provides true presence, which in turn provides a natural way of socializing with people that you are not able to do on a 2D static web-page.

But there’s more! You, your friends, co-workers, colleagues, family and anyone can “travel to a desert island, dungeon, tea house, amphitheater, office, movie theater and a cozy living room. New spaces, events and experiences are added often.” What this means is you can play Dungeons and Dragons in a actual dungeon. Watch a movie in a virtual theatre without scheduling movie dates. Or simply have a conversation with people across the globe, in a homey virtual environment. You can even visit live comedy stand-ups from the comfort of your home and feel like you are actually there in present.

AltspaceVR also provides online resources and software development kits for developers, “which enables the construction of holographic, multi-user web apps and experiences for virtual reality.” The SDK can work in conjunction with three.js and other JavaScript libraries to materialize your ideas into immersive content for AltSpaceVR. They also host a Developer Initiative Program, that grants selected developers $150,000 to build compatible apps for the virtual reality social platform.

It is no doubt, as Augmented and Virtual Reality headsets become widely adopted in the upcoming years, that people are going to seek out social platforms to connect with their friends, family and colleagues. One added benefit with a VR platform, is that people will be able to communicate “live” and “in-person.” It may even be much more appealing to watch a new movie release in a VR theatre. Just like the web-based social networks, mechanics and user-friendliness of these VR social spots will play a major role in who claims the top spot in the social enterprise market.

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