Microsoft Acquires Comcast-Backed Social Virtual Reality Startup AltspaceVR

Now we know which company stepped in to save AltspaceVR: The social virtual reality (VR) startup has been acquired by Microsoft, both companies announced at Microsoft’s Mixed Reality event in San Francisco Tuesday.

The Altspace team joined the software giant a few days ago, and is now being tasked with “building the world’s preeminent mixed reality community,” according to Microsoft’s mixed reality lead Alex Kipman, who called Altspace “a pioneer in social mixed reality” Tuesday.

Kipman said that “the majority of the team did come over” to Microsoft, but he didn’t share any further details on the acquisition price or Microsoft’s future plans for the company, including whether Microsoft will at some point rebrand Altspace. On day one, everything would stay the same, he said.

AltspaceVR has built a VR app that allows users to meet in virtual spaces and chat with each other via avatars. The company put a heavy emphasis on virtual events, and held comedy nights with Reggie Watts as well as events with celebrities like Al Roker and Bill Nye.

Along the way, Altspace had raised around $15 million from Comcast Ventures, Tencent, Dolby Family Ventures, and others. The company employed a total of 40 people. Efforts to raise additional funding failed this summer, and Altspace announced out of the blue that it would shut down by the end of July — only to hint at a white knight a few weeks later.

AltspaceVR is available for Google Daydream, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Samsung Gear VR, but not Windows Mixed Reality. AltspaceVR CEO Eric Romo said Tuesday that the company will continue to embrace these third-party platforms as well. However, the company said in an email to users Tuesday that there are no immediate plans to bring Altspace to Microsoft’s HoloLens.

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