UPDATED! Tech Tock with Jesse Damiani: A New Weekly Talk Show in AltspaceVR

This week saw the launch of a new weekly talk show, set on the social VR platform of AltspaceVR, which I must confess I haven’t written much about lately on this blog.

Jesse Damiani is an emerging technology journalist for such publications as Forbes, and an editor-at-large for the VRScout website. Last Monday was the first episode of his brand new talk show, called Tech Tock. Jesse describes the show thusly:

Tech Tock is a weekly talk show about the future. Through intimate conversations with entrepreneurs, developers, and artists, we’ll peer into the world technology is creating—and have some fun with the people creating it.

As his first guest, Jesse invited the author Blake J. Harris to discuss his latest book, titled The History of The Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality (which I am currently reading, and I can recommend highly).

I arrived in AltspaceVR with about half an hour to kill before the show, so I attended an AltspaceVR 101 session hosted by the company to orient newcomers. At the end of the training session, the hosts opened up the floor to questions, and I asked my one burning question: was AltspaceVR ever planning to upgrade their extremely low-poly, cartoon-like avatars?

Unfortunately, the answer was “no”, but the person who answered the question old me that AltspaceVR was looking at the possibility of allowing custom-made avatars sometime in the future, as many other platforms have done (VRChat, High Fidelity, and Sansar).

Although I am not a fan of their cartoony avatars, one area where AltspaceVR really shines is in their event programming. AltspaceVR is probably the social VR platform with the most events scheduled every week, as even a brief glance at their upcoming events listings can attest:

There’s something for everyone in their events listing, which of course is one of the reasons for their success as a platform. Another strong point is the fact that they pretty much support any VR hardware you have, from cellphone-based VR to high-end systems like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive—even the Leap Motion headset!

Next Monday, Jesse will have as a guest Nancy Baker Cahill, a multi-disciplinary artist and founder of 4th Wall, a free Augmented Reality (AR) app which invites viewers to place art in 360 degrees anywhere in the world. Her recent work in Desert X has been profiled in the LA Times and The Wall Street Journal.

UPDATE March 9th: Lorelle says in a comment to this post:

The AltspaceVR 101 is not produced by staff but by volunteers, as should have been explained during the event. So it is likely the person answering your question didn’t know the answer. The answer is complex. AltspaceVR works hard to stay an agnostic platform, enabling both mobile and tethered access, which few social VR platforms offer, thus less cartoony avatars are coming as devices improve. As are improvements in world building and environments. Stay tuned, and consider volunteering yourself to help with the 101 events.

I stand corrected; thank you, Lorelle!

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An Updated Comparison Chart of the Twelve Most Popular Social VR Platforms

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I decided to update my original comparison chart of the 12 most popular social VR platforms, according to my reader survey. Note that in this chart, I excluded platforms that did not have VR support (e.g. Second Life, OpenSim-based virtual worlds, etc.).

I also did not dwell on technical details, such as the underlying game engine, user creation tools, etc. Instead, I focused on the three things of most interest to consumers:

  • How you can access the platform;
  • What options do you have for your avatar;
  • And whether you can go shopping!

This print on this chart is a little small to show up on the constrained width of this blogpost, so I saved it as a picture to FlickrJust click on the chart below (or the link above) to see it in Flickr in a larger size.

Comparison Chart of 12 Social VR Platforms 25 Nov 2018

You can also download this chart from Flickr in any size up to its original size (1488 x 920 pixels).

If you feel I’ve made any mistakes, or left anything important out, please leave me a comment below, thanks! I do hope that people who are trying to figure out which social VR spaces to explore will find this comparison chart to be a useful and handy tool.

UPDATE 2:03 p.m.: I’ve just been informed that there is an Android app for vTime. Thanks for the tip, Stephanie Woessner!

UPDATED: A Comparison Chart of Twelve Popular Social VR Platforms

UPDATE Nov. 25th: I have updated the comparison chart! You can see it here.

bigfive

From my recent blog reader poll results, I got the following results on who has created user accounts on which social VR spaces:

The “Big Five” social VR platforms

After Second Life and OpenSim, the next biggest section of the reader responses were these five newer social VR platforms:

  • Sansar (149 readers, 8.87%)
  • High Fidelity (145 readers, 8.63%)
  • VRChat (101 readers, 6.01%)
  • Sinespace (83 readers, 4.94%)
  • AltspaceVR (68 readers, 4.05%)

Not far behind were a few more newer competitors

  • Rec Room (54 readers, 3.22%)
  • Somnium Space (53 readers, 3.16%)
  • Bigscreen (35 readers, 2.09%)
  • Facebook Spaces (29 readers, 1.73%)
  • Oculus Rooms (26 readers, 1.55%)
  • vTime (20 readers, 1.19%)
  • TheWaveVR (16 readers, 0.95%)

So, I decided to draw up a detailed comparison chart of just these 12 social VR platforms. Note that in this chart, I excluded platforms that did not have VR support (e.g. Second Life, OpenSim-based virtual worlds).

I also did not dwell on technical details, such as the underlying game engine, user creation tools, etc. Instead, I focused on the three things of most interest to consumers:

  • How you can access the platform;
  • What options do you have for your avatar;
  • And whether you can go shopping!

This print on this chart is a little small to show up on the constrained width of this blogpost, so I saved it as a picture to Flickr. Just click on the chart below (or the link above) to see it in Flickr in full size. You can also use the Flickr magnifying glass to get an even closer look!

Social VR Platform Comparison Chart 22 Oct 2018

You can also download this chart from Flickr in any size up to its original size (1656 x 914 pixels).

If you feel I’ve made any mistakes, or left anything out, please leave me a comment below, thanks! I do hope that people who are trying to figure out which social VR spaces to explore will find this comparison chart useful.

UPDATE Oct. 23rd: Someone on the Virtual Reality subReddit has helpfully pointed out this thread on the official Sansar website’s Feature Requests section, where it would appear that Sansar does now work with Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Sansar user Vassay wrote in July 2018:

After Windows 10 April update, WMR headsets work with Sansar in full scale – meaning all the benefits, including moving your avatar. Tested and confirmed on several systems already.

One thing to be weary is that Sansar works with WMR headsets through SteamVR libraries, so some updates to SteamVR can sometimes break things. But from what I’ve seen, things are mostly stable and work correctly.

Happy VR to all 😉

Also, there is an interesting comment on the discussion thread about this chart over on the High Fidelity user forums:

Clothing in High Fidelity is doable, but is limited at this time to whichever avatar is was made for, since global clothing options isn’t really a thing.

So can you have clothing in High Fidelity? Yes, and not just attachments either. Apparently Ryan forgot that Menithal’s robes are completely separate, that items made in Marvelous [Designer] do work here, or that I had a greeter uniform before all greeters got one…

Menithal in Clothing.jpeg

To which I would reply: Yes, technically you can make clothing for your custom avatar in HiFi (if you have the skills), but there is still no default, dressable avatar for which you can buy clothing from the marketplace, like you already can in both Sinespace and Sansar. Note that I am making a specific distinction between actual avatar clothing that conforms to your body and the simpler avatar attachments (such as hats and wings) currently offered at the in-world stores in High Fidelity.

Second Update: It turns out that Windows Mixed Reality headsets will work with any SteamVR-compatible virtual world. High Fidelity users report they can use their Windows MR headsets to navigate very well in HiFi.

CNN Business Takes a Look at Social VR with Visits to AltspaceVR and High Fidelity

CNN Business teamed up with BEME News to produce a nine-minute segment on avatars in virtual reality, visiting both AltspaceVR and High Fidelity:

How realistic virtual reality experiences impact your mind

Widespread adoption of virtual reality may depend on bringing people together in familiar ways like going to a party, seeing a band, or networking at a conference without leaving your couch. How real do VR connections feel?

Here’s the complete video segment on YouTube:

I like how this segment includes the part where the reporter steps into the Doob scanner to create a photorealistic avatar of herself. I would love to be able to do that, but alas, I live too far away from any of the locations that currently offer this service.

And then, I love the part where Philip Rosedale leads the reporter to a mirror within High Fidelity so she can see what she looks like…absolutely wonderful! (By the way, does Philip do anything else lately besides public relations for social VR in general and HiFi in particular? He’s popping up everywhere lately! Does the man sleep?!??)

And I still chuckle whenever I see tarted-up AltspaceVR avatars (such as Katie Kelly’s avatar in this video), which look way better than the limited default options offered to the regular customers! AltspaceVR avatars are still totally unappealing compared to what other social VR platforms can offer such as Sansar and High Fidelity. When is Altspace going to get off their butts and fix that? They’ve got all that Microsoft money to work with, for Pete’s sake! Do something!!

Anyway, my carping at AltspaceVR’s dreadfully cartoony avatars aside, it’s a great video. The reporter’s sense of awe and wonder were genuine, and quite infectious! This video segment will introduce social VR and its possibilities to a whole new audience. Well done, CNN and BEME!