Comedian and musician Reggie Watts wants to break records with a different kind of performance this week: Watts is going live in a virtual reality comedy club on AltspaceVR Thursday evening, a virtual world where users can interact with each other with their own avatars — think Second Life, but optimized for virtual reality (VR) headsets. Watts himself will be performing with an Avatar as well, which he unveiled on YouTube a few days ago.
AltspaceVR aims to make this the biggest event in virtual reality thus far; an admittedly low mark for a still-nascent medium, but one that the company nonetheless prepared for by rolling out new technology dubbed FrontRow this week. FrontRow is duplicating Watts’ performance into as many virtual comedy clubs as necessary to scale it up for large audiences.
“FrontRow allows everyone who attends to have a front row seat. Do you want to have a private party and attend the show with just your friends? You can do that,” said AlstpaceVR CEO Eric Romo. “Do you want to enjoy the show just by yourself? You can do that. Do you want to have the traditional public event experience with 50 new friends? You can do that, too.“
Consumers will be able to join the performance through the AltspaceVR apps on Samsung’s GearVR headset, the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. In addition, AltspaceVR is also offering a 2D version of its software for desktop PCs, and will stream the performance on YouTube as well. Thursday’s Reggie Watts gig is the result of a partnership with JASH, the online comedy collective co-founded by Michael Cera, Sarah Silverman, Eric Wareheim, Tim Heidecker, and Watts himself.
AltspaceVR raised a $10 million round of funding from Comcast Ventures, Tencent, Dolby Family Ventures and others last July. The company has been working some time on social, avatar-based VR experiences, but it’s not alone with its vision: Altspace’s biggest competitor is likely going to be Linden Lab, the company that has been building virtual worlds with Second Life for years.
The current version of Second Life is not optimized for VR headsets, but Linden Lab has been working for some time on a successor code-named Project Sansar. Last month, Linden lab opened up limited sign-ups for Project Sansar, which is supposed to become available to consumers later this year.