Spatial, Originally a Social Augmented Reality Platform, Expands to Virtual Reality and Offers a Free Version During the Pandemic

When I first wrote about Spatial back in October of 2018, it was a social augmented reality (AR) platform which only ran on the first generation of AR headsets available for purchase by consumers: the much-hyped Magic Leap and Microsoft’s HoloLens.

(By the way, if you are looking for definitions of terms such as augmented reality, I have compiled a handy list of definitions for my blog readers.)

Since I wrote that first blogpost, Magic Leap has struggled, laying off about half its employees in April 2020, and choosing to focus on enterprise users instead of chasing the consumer market. (It is interesting to compare the recent troubles of Magic Leap with that of Sansar and High Fidelity. In all three cases, the lack of the previously-confidently-predicted massive consumer uptake of VR/AR/MR/XR headsets led directly to their downsizing and restructuring.)

Well, VentureBeat reported on May 13th, 2020 that the company is making Spatial available for free during the pandemic, and they are now supporting the Oculus Quest standalone VR headset:

First, the company is offering multiple months of free access to its premium-level Spatial Pro enterprise service, including support for users without full-fledged AR or VR devices. Businesses will be able to share any Spatial room with team members using just a web link, enabling desktop, laptop, and small device users to join meetings with a web browser, no download or headset required. Spatial’s headset UI has been carried over to the web, enabling 2D screen users to easily observe the 3D spaces.

Second, Spatial is making an Oculus Quest app generally available today, including a “much improved experience” compared with the prior private beta. Although Facebook hasn’t announced sales figures for the hybrid standalone and PC-tethered headset, Spatial characterizes the repeatedly sold-out Quest as “the most widely available XR device today” and says it has refined its user interface to make the experience easier for new users.

Here’s a screencap of Spatial’s pricing page, reflecting this change:

Spatial is free during the coronavirus pandemic!
Spatial is now available on the Oculus Quest, Microsoft HoloLens 1 and 2,
Magic Leap One, and Via Desktop/Flatscreen Web and Mobile Devices

Now, choosing to expand to include the popular Oculus Quest wireless VR headset is a smart move. Facebook does not disclose sales figures for the Quest, but some have estimated (based on game sales) that the company has sold approximately 425,000 Quests in 2019. Contrast this with the poor sales reported of the Magic Leap One:

The Information‘s Alex Heath is reporting that Magic Leap managed to sell just 6,000 units of its $2,300 Magic Leap One headset in its first six months on sale, a figure made worse by CEO Rony Abovitz’s internal claims that he wanted the startup to sell at least one million units of the device in the first year, a goal the report states he was later convinced to rethink — Abovitz later projected the company would sell 100,000 units in the first year.

Of course, such sluggish sales were one of the reasons that Magic Leap essentially gave up on trying to sell to the consumer market, and focused squarely on the corporate market. (Microsoft is a little more forthcoming with its HoloLens sales figures, but at roughly 50,000 units reported sold in 2018, they also are dwarfed by Quest sales.) It only makes sense for the company to add a headset which beings more potential customers—and, hopefully, enterprise sales—to the table. Spatial already boasts Ford, Mattel, T Mobile, Purina and Pfizer among its corporate clients.

Here’s an 11-minute YouTube video demonstrating how Spatial works on the HoloLens 2 AR headset, from 2019:


I happen to own an Oculus Quest, and normally I would leap on an opportunity to test-drive Spatial, except for one small problem: the large space I cleared in my bedroom for my Oculus Quest is now piled high with my pandemic stockpile of non-perishable food, Lysol disinfectant wipes, and toilet paper! So obviously, that’s not going to happen. So I am going to have to rely on second-hand reports on how well Spatial works with the Quest (I am rather curious to know what differences would appear in someone using Spatial in virtual reality as opposed to augmented reality.)

In a separate VentureBeat article, reporter Jeremy Horwitz waxes rhapsodic about his experience using Spatial on his Oculus Quest:

I’m not often at a loss for words, but as I re-entered the real world after my second holographic media briefing this month, I realized that I was struggling to speak or type. Mentally, the sensation was awe — my sincere belief that I had just experienced the future of remote work and meetings…

The breakthrough here is Spatial, a collaborative workspace app that just became available for the popular Oculus Quest VR headset. It’s not hyperbole to say that Spatial has unilaterally reignited my enthusiasm for the Quest, which has recently gathered dust on my desk, as the potent pairing enables me to quickly participate in 3D group meetings filled with multiple realistic participants. Instead of using cartoony avatars or floating video tiles, Spatial users appear as “holograms” with real faces, motion-sensed head and hand movements, and even lip motions keyed to their live voices.

The text under the three smaller pictures along the bottom of this image, which is a bit hard to read here, says:

– Create your 3D-realistic avatar from a single selfie in second
– Your avatar comes to life as you talk, move and interact
– Shake hands and high-five each other

So, if anybody out there wants to try the free version of Spatial on their Oculus Quest, and write up a review, I would be happy to provide the blogpost for a guest review! Thanks! I hope somebody takes me up on my offer.

If you want to learn more about Spatial, you can visit their web page, or follow them on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Herding Cats, Part III: Taking a Third Step Towards Developing a Taxonomy of Metaverse Products by Categorizing Social VR Platforms by Architecture, Game Engine, and Scripting Language

H’yaaah, little kitties! H’yaaahh!!

OK, I have shared a first draft of the following infographic to as many social VR Discords as I could find, and I got a fair bit of feedback, so I’m reasonably certain that this will stay Version 1.0 for a little while longer than my thrice-updated Venn diagram of social VR platforms by purpose (here, and the original blopost is here).

As with the previous infographic, I have set this one to CC BY 2.0 CA. Feel free to reuse and remix this, just give me credit, please.

The following diagram is available to view and download in various sizes from Flickr, up to a whopping 800 by 2000 pixels.

Please note that this is an updated and expanded version of the information from the last three columns of this table (my original blogpost). I really need to update that table too, especially since things are evolving so quickly in the social virtual reality marketplace.

As always, comments and corrections are welcomed. Thanks!

I created this infographic using Canva.com, which happens to be a great tool for this sort of thing.

Version 2.1 of the Infographic: Social VR Platforms Organized by Primary Purpose(s)

Okay, more feedback, more thinking, more changes to my Venn diagram (as before, the following diagram is available to view and download in various sizes from Flickr, up to 1024 by 768 pixels, just click on it):

Social VR Platforms by Purpose (Version 2.1)

Summary of the changes this time around:

  • I decided that NeosVR, after all, was not primarily a business, conference, and remote workteams platform after all (sorry, guys!).
  • I have been told that Mozilla Hubs is used by some educational institutions, so I needed to move it.
  • I have seen art galleries in Sinespace, so I moved it over to join Sansar.
  • And finally, in response to a request/complaint, I have replaced the pesky copyright symbol with a Creative Commons-BY licence. Feel free to reuse and remix, just give me credit, please.

I am happy with Version 2.1…for now. I have also updated my original blogpost with this new infographic. (Check back tomorrow, when I will no doubt release Version 2.2, with yet more changes. Then again, maybe I’ll stop fiddling with it for a while.)

UPDATED! Version 2.0 of the Infographic: Social VR Platforms Organized by Purpose

UPDATE 9:05 p.m.: New version! Version 2.1 (summary of changes made is here).

Over the past two days, I have received feedback on the first version of my infographic, and I have also been doing some thinking on my own, so I have made some adjustments to it, and I now present version 2.0 to you now (I have also updated my original blogpost here). The following diagram is available to view and download in various sizes from Flickr, up to 1024 by 768 pixels, just click on it:

Social VR Platforms by Purpose (Version 2.0) 11 May 2020

If you are looking for an up-to-date list of YARTVRA platforms, you can find it here.

Here is an explanation of some of the changes. First, you will notice that NeosVR now occupies the centre spot on this Venn diagram. Yes, the people at NeosVR have actually convinced me that their platform can actually be used for all five of the major purposes! I had forgotten that NeosVR was originally an educational platform, and it is being used by several universities, including the University of Oxford and the University of Sydney (a topic I hope to cover in more detail in a later blogpost).

NeosVR is also used for art (in particular, I remember a wonderful three-dimensional recreation of one of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings). And, of course, the MetaMovie project is the perfect example of a live event in VRChat (another project I need to write an update on). So, for me, NeosVR comes the closest to checking all the boxes.

I also moved Ceek from Live Music to Media Consumption, since I do not believe they actually offer any live performances, just video recorded previously (somebody correct me if I am wrong, since I am not bothering to purchase their branded VR headset, and I am not really interested in cellphone-based VR, anyway). Meh.

I have also decided that Engage can host live events as well as business conferences, so I have moved it. While I really don’t consider Engage a general purpose platform, they do fit into the other four categories.

Likewise, I have moved VRChat, since I forgot that they do have business and conferences. The recently concluded Virtual Market 4 was a prime example of that!

I think those were the only changes I made from version 1.0. As always, please feel free to let me know if you think I have grievously miscategorized any particular platform. Thanks!