Hypatia: A Brief Introduction

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Hypatia is a social VR platform created by a company called Timefire VR, now available for free on both the Steam and Oculus Home stores. According to a VentureBeat profile, it sounds as though the company went through more than its fair share of troubles in an effort to develop and release the product:

The company started working on the game in 2014. It’s been challenging bringing it to market. All told, the company has raised $4 million to date. That’s a tough task for a company based in Phoenix, Arizona.

Early on, angel investors put $1 million into the company. But in 2016, to get more financing, TimefireVR went public via a reverse merger, where a private company allows itself to be acquired by a publicly traded shell company.

Rassás [Jeffrey Rassás, the CEO of TimefireVR] said that the reverse merger was “less than satisfying.” So the company went private about a year ago, reduced its overhead, and kept working on Hypatia. At one point, the company had 28 people. But it has reduced down to a core of nine people now, and it pushed out its launch date until now.

One thing that sets Hypatia apart from other virtual worlds such as Sansar and High Fidelity is that it is a curated experience, where the company has designed and created the world, rather than letting customers build it from scratch:

“I think we are doing something radically different from other VR worlds,” said Jeffrey Rassás, the CEO of TimefireVR, in an interview with GamesBeat. “It’s not infinite, not vast empty spaces. It’s more like going to Disneyland, You get to do fun activities from day one. We are creating an environment where we were hoping to be a bridge to artistic programs.”

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Kunstkerk Art Studio in Hypatia

When you first enter Hypatia, you step out of a subway station to find yourself in a canal-laced city with old European architecture, which reminded me of Amsterdam. A large number of colourful bots with nametags were wandering about from place to place. There’s a marketplace with art and various other items for sale, and you can even try painting your own masterpiece at one of the easels using the tools provided:

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Kyle the Bot with Some Art

There are also ATMs where you can purchase in-game currency through the Oculus store (it would appear that you get a CDN$20.00 credit to start off with):

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There’s a huge graffiti wall next to a table with cans of spray paint in various colours, for you to indulge in a little virtual vandalism, and down the street, there’s a large colourful former church that’s an art studio:

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There’s also a theatre where you can grab some props and put on a stage show for your audience. There’s even free fruit for you to throw at bad performers!

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So, what do I think of Hypatia overall? Well, I think it’s the kind of place where, after a couple of visits, I would probably get bored. Your creativity is restricted to the easels and walls you can decorate using the brushes and spray paint cans provided. If you want to design and create your own experience from scratch, you’re much better off sticking to Sansar, High Fidelity, Sinespace, VRChat, or Second Life.

However, Hypatia is a wonderful place for children and the young-at-heart to play, create, and explore. Obviously, a lot of work has gone into making the experience cheerful, fun, and easy-to-use. I could see letting a school group loose in here, and everybody having a wonderful time! It reminds me a bit of Rec Room, and no doubt Hypatia is after the same target audience. I wish them every success.

Here’s a brief promotional video of the platform: