AltspaceVR: the return

Courtesy of AltspaceVR

Following the announcement of its closure, Altspace VR is still open. I’d actually been holding off on this since Ciaran Laval first drew my attention to the news on August 16th, in case further details were forthcoming.

As I noted towards the end of July, the company had been planning to close shop on August 3rd. However, following the closure announcement, the company apparently received an outpouring of support – and with it, apparently the means to say open. This prompted an announcement on August 15th that the platform would be continuing:

It has been a roller coaster of a ride for our team and our community since we announced that AltspaceVR was coming to an end. We are elated to follow-up that dismal proclamation with some very good news: AltspaceVR is going to live on…

Thanks to that outpouring of support, we’re now deep in discussions with others who are passionate about AltspaceVR who want to guarantee that our virtual oasis stays open. We feel confident saying to our community that you don’t need to find another place to meet your friends in virtual reality. AltspaceVR is not closing down.

It’s not clear on exactly with whom the company has been in discussion – and that’s primarily the reason I’d been holding back on covering the news, lest further information was forthcoming on this matter. However, speculation following the announcement is the Oculus Rift co-founder Palmer Luckey may be involved in trying to maintain the company’s viability. He tweeted a poll following the news of the company’s intended shut-down, asking followers if he should step in. He then re-tweeted the news that Altspace VR would remain open, which further stoked speculation of his involvement.

AltspaceVR: avatar customisation

Techcrunch were perhaps the first news outlet to cover the evolving situation, with writer Lucas Matney noting:

It’s honestly unclear what to make of the sudden shutdown and un-shutdown announcements and whether they were just efforts to grab attention and put together a last-minute deal, but it is apparent that AltspaceVR still has their work cut out for them as they look to carve out a niche in a crowded social VR space that still has Facebook to compete with. 

He goes on to note that sources close to the company indicated that it had laid off several of its employees and had shut down the majority of its servers. However, the AltspaceVR clients all remain available for download, and the platform can be accessed and used (they’ll be hosting a solar eclipse event on Monday, August 21st as well).

Whatever the future of AltspaceVR, given its high-profile nature, the turmoil surrounding its survival highlights the risks associated with virtual reality when reliant on venture capital – and the benefits of being self-financed, as is the case with platforms such as Sansar – which is not so say there are no other risks involved in building a “social VR environment”.

Selfies and an exhibition in Second Life

Club LA and Gallery: Burke Bode

Club LA and Gallery, curated by Fuyuko ‘冬子’ Amano (Wintergeist) has a new ground-level location, which is still partially under construction. To celebrate the move, the gallery is hosting two exhibitions; the first, Selfies: Some of My Faces, by Burke Bode, has been open since July; the second, An Exhibition by Twain Orfan, opens on Sunday, August 20th.

“Pablo Picasso said ‘Everything you can imagine is real,'” Burke says of his exhibition. “He is right. Living in a world that is completely created from scratch just by the imagination of its residents you experience this. A place where you can invent yourself new every day and for a creative person a place where you MUST create yourself new every single day. [I’m] changing my look constantly as shape shifter. Some of my shapes last for a day, for one picture; and some stay.”

Club LA and Gallery: Burke Bode

He reflects this beautifully with an exhibition of images illustrating many of his various looks. These are presented in an enclosed space within the gallery, the images laid out to present something of a maze visitors walk through. Semi-translucent, the images resemble layers visible one through another so that as you walk through them, each appears to be peeled away, revealing the next, which is in turn peeled back at the next turn, and so on.

It’s both an artistic approach to presenting change and the possibilities to reinvent within the digital medium, and an intriguing means of commenting on the nature of identity and how we present ourselves in the physical world. While we may not be able to change our looks here, we do “change” according to circumstance, situation and those around us: the person we are with a lover is not the same as the person we are with a child; the person we present to colleagues at work is not the same as the one we share with our closest friends, and so on. Thus, Selfies might be seen as a reflection of this.

Club LA and Gallery: Twain Orfan

Twain Orfan his been active in Second Life for over eight years, but only immersed himself in the world of SL photography in 2016. “I enjoy taking photo [the] art of items that are often overlooked when photographers visit various sims,” he says of his work. “Finding pure art in objects such as a chair, a table, a flower-pot, or, perhaps a bicycle. From time to time I also try my hand at Landscapes, or an occasional shot involving my own avatar.”

An Exhibition reflects all of this with a collection of 18 images taken from around second life, all of which also demonstrate Twain’s interest in, and experiment with, angle, light and shadow. What is particularly fascinating with the images is the fact they are all raw: Twain resists the use of GIMP or Photoshop for post-processing, relying instead purely on the viewer and Windlight for his pictures. The result is a fascinating collection of pieces which are individual and collectively eye-catching, offering unique windows into our virtual lives.

Club LA and Gallery: Twain Orfan

Both Selfies: Some of My Faces and An Exhibition make for an engaging visit, with the latter officially opening at 12:00 noon on Sunday, August 20th, with music by Marain Dufaux.

The new gallery space itself offers more room for exhibitions, and includes a landscaped garden visitors can enjoy and an information centre / studio space. Teleport disks are provided to assist visitors in getting around – although in truth, everything at ground level is within easy walking distance of the landing point.

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