VR chat platform AltspaceVR today announced that it is opening support for the Samsung Gear VR, making it the first social chat experience on a mobile VR platform. But rather than gather reporters in person, AltspaceVR CEO Eric Romo presented to a room full of hovering robots representing journalists inside AltspaceVR itself.
Joining through an Oculus Rift in Redwood City, Romo addressed the crowd, all beaming in via Samsung Gear headsets while scattered around the world. Romo was able to present in the virtual penthouse on a giant screen behind his robot, and knew who was asking questions because their avatars would light up.
A closed alpha of AltspaceVR on the Samsung Gear VR will start soon. It will also be the first cross-platform social experience, the first shared web browser, and the first shared streaming video in virtual reality. In essense, AltspaceVR is trying to establish itself as the social layer of virtual reality, connecting people across fixed and mobile VR headsets from all manufacturers.
Altspace’s VR chat rooms let participants hang out, surf the web or watch videos on a giant big screen, play board games, and visit futuristically rendered locales. Founded in 2013, Altspace has raised $15.7 million from investors including Comcast Ventures, Tencent, Dolby Family Ventures and Rothenberg Ventures.
Altspace sees a business selling tickets for live VR events. While physical geographic barriers stop most people from attending the best events around the world, through VR and Altspace they could be suddenly beamed into the same room as their idols.
The problem is that most people don’t have the hardware to run a fixed, PC-based virtual reality rig. But mobile VR headsets like Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard mean anyone with the right smartphone can get a decent VR experience.
Slimming its technology down to run on the limited processing power of mobile VR rigs will make AltspaceVR accessible to a much wider audience. And since people can use it on the go, there’s a natural virality as those around them ask what they’re doing inside the goggles.