Alcove VR: A Brief Introduction to a Virtual Reality App Focused on Connecting Families and Combating Social Isolation

Alcove VR is a different kind of social VR platform. According to their website:

Alcove is a virtual reality app connecting family members across generations by bringing them together inside a virtual world filled with immersive experiences.

When you can’t physically be in the same room, or even on the same continent, meet your loved ones in Alcove’s virtual living room to create new memories as you journey around the globe, watch videos that surround you and play cognitive games together.

The company explains why they are focusing on this particular niche:

Social isolation is an increasing health concern. Studies have found that isolation and loneliness are worse for health than obesity or smoking, especially if you’re over 50. The health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Alcove was built with this in mind. We are driven to knock down the barriers created by social isolation or physical limitations, and open new doors to those affected … and we’re doing it with fun and engaging VR. Alcove bridges the physical distance between family members and empowers people to experience new places and things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do because of cost, time or mobility constraints.

You can download a beta version of Alcove VR from the Oculus Store for the Oculus Go VR headset (there don’t appear to be versions for the Oculus Quest or the Oculus Rift yet). Alcove VR is available through Oculus’ Early Access program, and the cost is free. (It is not available on Steam.)

Alcove VR has partnered with the AARP, the American seniors’ interest group, and includes experiences created and curated by AARP Innovation Labs. They are actively looking for partnerships with other startups and content creators.

And they are running a VR Design Challenge Contest:

Games for Change is proud to announce plans with AARP Innovation Labs (also known as The Hatchery) to create a VR Design Challenge. This would be the first VR Challenge for Games for Change who has previously run Games Design Challenges on issues like climate change and immigration. The Hatchery is an innovation accelerator that works with start-ups and investors to discover big ideas and bring them to scale to change how people live as they age.

Through the VR for Change Alcove Challenge, AARP Innovation Labs and Games for Change will aim to inspire more people to think about how VR games can enhance the quality of life as we age, and enable people across all ages to experience simple, beautiful, and impactful VR. The challenge will invite developers to submit a digital game that can have health or wellness benefits for older users. Select winners and finalists may have the opportunity to have their game published on the Alcove platform.

If you are interested, more details on the VR Design Challenge are available here, along with a form to enter the contest.

You can follow Alcove VR on social media via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And, of course, I have added it to my ever-growing list of social VR/virtual worlds.

Advertisements

Glue: A Brief Introduction

Glue is a social VR platform created by a company out of Helsinki, Finland. It’s another example of a category I like to call YARTVRA: Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual Reality App. Glue describes itself as:

Glue is a modern collaboration platform that takes advantage of recent advances in immersive 3D graphics, virtual reality, and cloud computing. It is intended for business professionals who need global remote access to a shared team space for efficient collaboration.

Among the features offered by Glue are 3D avatars, spatial audio, post-it notes, whiteboards and freehand drawing, and the ability to export work created in-world through their web user interface, in various supported file formats. Supported VR headsets include:

  • HTC Vive and Vive Pro
  • Oculus Rift and Rift S
  • Oculus Quest
  • Valve Index
  • Windows Mixed Reality headsets

Glue has three different pricing levels: team (up to ten users at a flat rate of 500 Euros per month, charged annually), organization (for 10-100 users), and enterprise (for over a hundred users):

There’s a platform overview document which you can download from their website, which gives more detailed information. You can also follow Glue on social media via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I will also be adding Glue to my comprehensive list of social VR/virtual worlds.

Immersivt’s Ultimate Guide to Digital Meetings in VR

While creating my updated comparison chart of social VR platforms, I discovered a very useful guide to virtual reality apps compiled by a Swedish VR consulting company called immersivt.se, called The ultimate guide to digital meetings in VR (the website is in Swedish, but Google Translate does a very good job of automatically translating the text into English):

This guide covers quite a few different platforms, including many which I have written about before on my blog. But there were also many products listed, which I had not heard of before:

  • Glue
  • Arthur
  • Dimension10
  • InsiteVR
  • Hyper
  • Acadicus
  • AlcoveVR
  • VR Conference

So you all know what that means, right? It’s time for me to go do some more exploring! Of course, I will report back on what I find. Their website was also kind enough to provide a link to my updated comparison chart—thanks!

An Updated Comparison Chart of Sixteen Social VR Platforms (Updated and Expanded Draft, November 2019)

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 300 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! More details here


I haven’t published an update to my popular November 2018 comparison chart of twelve social VR platforms for quite some time. There never seems to be a perfect time to update. At first, I wanted to wait until the Oculus Quest was released. And then, I was wondering whether or not I should wait until Facebook releases the Oculus Link update to the Oculus Quest (which means, theoretically, that Oculus Quest users can use a custom cable connected to their VR-ready Windows computer to view content originally intended for the Oculus Rift).

In the end, I decided to go ahead and publish a first draft of the updated comparison chart now, get feedback from my readers, and update the chart as necessary. So here is that first draft.

I removed two of the 12 platforms in last year’s comparison chart: both Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms were shut down by Facebook on October 25th, 2019, in preparation for the launch of Facebook Horizon sometime in 2020. I have not added Facebook Horizon to this chart (yet) because we still know so little about this new social VR platform. And I decided to add six more social VR platforms to the chart: Anyland, Cryptovoxels, Engage, JanusVR, Mozilla Hubs, and NeosVR.

Rather than publish the chart as an image to Flickr, as I did last year, I decided to create a spreadsheet using Google Drive, and publish it to the web here:

Comparison Chart of 16 Social VR Platforms (Updated and Expanded Draft © Ryan Schultz, November 13th, 2019).

Please leave me a comment with any suggestions, corrections or edits, and I will update this new comparison chart accordingly. You can also reach me on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, or any other virtual world Discord that I might belong to (my handle is always the same, RyanSchultz). You can also use the contact form on my blog.

UPDATE 3:48 p.m.: I’ve had a request to add userbase figures to this chart, but I am not going to do that for a very good reason: there’s absolutely no way I can get accurate figures from the various companies, many of whom want to keep that information private. And even ranking them using a scale like low, medium, and high would just be guesses on my part, misleading to a lot of people, and liable to lead to a lot of arguments. Sorry! I will leave it up to you to check Steam statistics for those platforms which are on Steam (which, again, may or may not be an accurate measure of the actual level of usage of any platform).

UPDATE Nov. 13th: I’d like to thank Frooxius (of NeosVR), Artur Sychov (of Somnium Space) and Jin for their corrections and suggestions. Any updates to this table are shown in real-time, which is a unexpected bonus to publishing a spreadsheet directly to the web from Google Drive! I should have thought of doing it this way last year.

And it would appear that there is a great deal of disagreement of what constitutes “in-world building tools”. I am referring to the ability to create complex objects entirely within the platform itself, and not using external tools such as Blender or Unity and then importing the externally-created objects into the platform. For example, High Fidelity has very rudimentary “prim-building” tools in-world, which are not often used by creators, who prefer to import mesh objects created in tools like Blender, Maya, or 3ds Max instead. To give another example, Somnium Space now offers a completely in-world tool for constructing buildings on your purchased virtual land. Sansar has no such tools for in-world building, although you can assemble premade, externally-created objects into a world by using their Scene Editor (which is something completely different from what I am talking about here).

One reader had suggested adding in a few more columns to this chart to include various technical aspects of these social VR platforms: game engine used, open/closed source, support for scripting, etc. Using the table provided to me by Enrico Speranza (a.k.a. Vytek), I have now added three more columns to the original comparison table: architecture/game engine, open/closed source, and scripting. Thank you for the suggestion, Vytek!

Please keep your suggestions, corrections and edits coming, thanks!