Altspace Aims to Increase Audience for Virtual Reality Entertainment With New VR Capture Feature

Janko Roettgers
Variety

Social virtual reality (VR) startup AltspaceVR has done live music and comedy shows in VR for some time. Now, it wants to grow the audience for these kinds of events by making it possible to record and replay them.

Altspace is set to officially unveil VR Capature, as the feature is being called, with a live demonstration in virtual reality Thursday night. “VR Capture is an important breakthrough for the development and growth of VR as a medium,” said AltspaceVR CEO Eric Romo.

AltspaceVR, which is backed by Comcast, Tencent and others, most recently used its social VR technology for a virtual reality version of NBC’s Democracy Plaza, complete with cameo appearances of Al Roker and other network stars. Before that, it hosted multiple comedy shows by Reggie Watts.

The company stages these kinds of events in intimate spaces where VR users can interact with just a few dozen other audience members. It then replicates these virtual spaces, making it possible for hundreds, if not thousands of attendees to watch a comedian or a band perform without losing the atmosphere of a small club.

With the new VR Capture feature, uses can essentially visit a replay of a show. But instead of just watching a video, they can actually move through the space, and for example jump on stage while Reggie Watts performs. They can still attend a show replay together with others and interact with them, just like during a live event.

This worked reasonably well during a demo given to Variety this week, up to the point where the phone for the Gear VR headset used to attend the replay overheated, leading to a choppy and dizzying experience. An AltspaceVR spokesperson said afterwards that this “can happen during prolonged use and if other applications are open on the phone.”

AltspaceVR is going to initially reserve VR Capture for events held by its media partners, but a spokesperson told Variety that this may not always be the case: “There is a lot of potential for this technology, including access by users,” he said.

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