Redwood City, Calif-based AltspaceVR has raised a new $10 million round of funding for an interesting proposition: AltspaceVR wants to build social spaces for virtual reality (VR) experiences, allowing users to mingle and watch movies with each other, browse the web together or even face off against each other in casual games.
AltspaceVR has been working on this idea of a social VR space since 2013, and opened up a beta test of its platform in May. Altspace has since attracted a couple thousand users, according to bruce Wooden, the company’s head of developer and community relations. It’s a small community, but Altspace has proven sticky to the ones who try it: The average session lasts between 25 and 30 minutes, according to Wooden.
Altspace has been building a number of virtual meeting places for its users, including a Zen-inspired tea garden, a desert island and a futuristic movie theater. After logging onto the system, users are represented as an avatar, and able to meet and talk to other avatars using either an Oculus headset or a PC-based viewer. Users can then find a video or website they want to share and blow it up on a large screen for everyone to watch, or play simple tabletop games like chess or a 3D version of Flappy Birds.
Navigating and communicating within AltspaceVR takes a little getting used to, but after that, it’s actually a pretty compelling experience. Some users have been having Superbowl parties within AltspaceVR, while others have been watching Netflix or YouTube together. The AltspaceVR team, which currently consists of 16 employees, also uses the platform for team meetings.
The company is also close to releasing an SDK, which could help others to build 3D apps within Altspace that are based on simple web technologies. “We can be the social backbone for making a VR app,” said Wooden.
Altspace isn’t alone with this approach: Linden Lab, maker of the popular virtual world Second Life, is currently developing a new platform optimized for virtual reality code-named Project Sansar. But while Project Sansar is building upon many of Second Life’s core ideas, Altspace is trying to become a more transient social layer. “We are not looking to build a persistent world,” explained Wooden.
The startup’s new round of funding includes money from new investor Comcast ventures, while existing investors Tencent, Dolby Family Ventures, Raine Ventures Lux Capital, Western Technology Investments, Maven Ventures, Promus Ventures, Streamlined Ventures and Rothenberg Ventures also shipped in. it brings the total amount of money raised by AltspaceVR to $15.7 million.