AltspaceVR acquired by Microsoft

Courtesy of AltspaceVR

What a ride. We cried, we laughed, we overdosed on caffeine… but now we’re dancing in our headsets! For those of you that didn’t witness the drama of the last few months, we had to close down in July but thanks to the love you sent out to the internet, others took notice.

With the AltspaceVR team on-board we look forward to building the world’s pre-eminent mixed reality community.

So opens a blog post from AltspaceVR announcing the company has been acquired by Microsoft, as confirmed by an announcement by the tech giant at its Mixed Reality Event. It marks the end of a rough couple of months for the company.

In July (as I covered here), the AltSpaceVR was set to say “goodbye” in early August. It would have been a sad end to a company which had done much to lay the basis of “social VR”, and had hosted events featuring the likes of Reggie Watts, Drew Carey and Bill “the Science Guy” Nye; the company even hosted events with NBC news during the 2016 US Presidential election.

However, rumours soon began circulating that perhaps the company might continue, and on August 15th, barely a week after closure, the company confirmed this looked like it would be the case and theey were in talks with a third-party. At the time, many thought Oculus VR co-founder and wannabe political backer, Palmer Luckey might be behind moves to rescue / revive AltspaceVR (see here). ow we know that third-party was in fact Microsoft – led, apparently, by Alex Kipman.

Kipman, a 17-year veteran at Microsoft, cut his teeth with the company on the Xbox, and created the Kinect motion controller. Since 2015, he has been a technical fellow for the company’s Operating Systems Group, with a specific focus on the company’s evolving AR systems, such as the HoloLens, which he also credited with inventing. The AltspaceVR blog post notes in reference to him:

Many members of the AltspaceVR team worked hard in the following days and weeks to make sure the technology lived on. They connected with Alex Kipman and found a natural overlap between his goals for mixed reality and their hopes for the future of AltspaceVR. 

Alex Kipman, the man behind Microsoft’s HoloLens, and seen as key to the company’s acquisition of AltspaceVR

The AltspaceVR blog post also lays things out pretty clearly: not only has Microsoft acquired Altspace VR, they have no plans to absorb it: the company will apparently be free to continue working with other platforms and maintain its identity as a business entity.

AltspaceVR will stay AltspaceVR. Microsoft is most interested in preserving the current community that uses AltspaceVR to connect and interact with new and old friends. These first few months will focus on fostering our community and making sure AltspaceVR remains a friendly, welcoming and vibrant place to hang out in virtual reality.

AltspaceVR will continue to work on PC and Mac in 2D mode, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Daydream by Google, and Samsung Gear VR.

Does this mean AltSpaceVR will be integrated into the AR offerings Microsoft has and is planning? Insofar as the HoloLens itself is concerned, the answer appears to be “no” – at least for the present.

However, the Microsoft is aiming to distinguish its “mixed reality” platform for VR headsets running Windows 10. and will be releasing a slew of headsets with OEM partners at an aggressive Us $299 pricing start point. So it might be that they see AltspaceVR  – or capabilities developed from it – as a potential fit into this arena as it grows. Again, as the AltspceVR blog post notes:

Microsoft is excited to incorporate communications technology into our mixed reality ecosystem. AltspaceVR takes personal connections, combines them with real-time experiences, and leverages immersive presence to share experiences. Situations of people, places, and things have deeper meaning and in turn, are more memorable. We’re excited to see how far this technology can go.

Inside AltspaceVR: avatar customisation

Of the move, Microsoft had this to say via a press release:

AltspaceVR is one of the pioneers in immersive communications bringing people together in virtual reality from over 160 countries to attend meet-ups, comedy shows, yoga classes, dance parties, and large-scale events …

With the AltspaceVR team on-board we look forward to building the world’s pre-eminent mixed reality community.

The full terms of the deal have not been released. Prior to hit financial difficulties earlier in 2017, AltspaceVR had raised some US $26.3 million in funding through two rounds of investment, with US $16 million raised in 2014, and a further US $10.3 million raised in a second round of funding led by Raine Ventures.

For Max and Lyyric: Second Life creators and artists unite

For Max – October 3rd through 10th, 2017

On September 22nd, 2017, Maxwell Graf issued a deeply personal, heart-breaking request via Plurk. Related to a personal situation, it included a request for people to buy from his store (in-world or on the Marketplace). For obvious reasons Max didn’t feel comfortable in asking for more than this, despite the severity of the situation he and his flesh and blood partner, Lyyric Fei face. However, that hasn’t stopped friends and fellow creators from rallying around; and on Monday, September 25th, a special shopping event, organised by Charlotte Bartlett, Sophia Harlow and Blazin Arubet, was announced.

Going to the Max, also now more simply referenced as For Max, opened on Tuesday, October 3rd and will run through until Tuesday, October 10th, 2017. It features more than 50 creators from across Second Life, offering fashion, clothing, animations, accessories, furniture, fun items, curios – even entire houses – with many offering 100% of all sale proceeds in support of Max and Lyyric.

For Max – October 3rd through 10th, 2017

Taking place on the Apple Fall region, featuring booths sponsored by Shiny Shabby, For Max not only features some great shopping opportunities, but will also include entertainment (yet to be scheduled at the time of writing), raffles, an auction and more.

The sheer diversity of goods on offer means For Max really is an event with something to suit almost everyone and every pocket. So do make a point of visiting, perusing and purchasing! Be sure, as well, to keep an eye on the For Max Facebook page (Facebook log-in not required) for the latest information and updates on the event.

For Max: many of the items on sale are offered 100% of all proceeds going to Max and Lyrric at an event where you can buy everything from fashion, animations, furnishings and accessories all the way through to entire homes and fun items

But that’s not all that’s going on in support of Max and Lyrric!

Also rising to the call, artist and author Kylie Sabra has opened an art exhibition at her gallery space in the Antiquity regions in support of  Max and Lyrric. As with For Max, Kylie’s Benefiting Maxwell Graf exhibition runs from Tuesday October 3rd through to Tuesday, October 10th, 2017. 90% of all proceeds from the sale of Kylie’s art go directly to Max and Lyyric.

Kylie says of Max:

Maxwell Graf is one of our beloved members and a long-time Second Life artist and builder.  I met Max years ago when I asked him to exhibit at The Rose Theatre Art Galleries when I was curator. His work was and is impressive. He’s a great talent and I wish him the very best in these hard times. I can also attest that he makes the best-fitting pair of pants in Second Life and you’ll find them at Rustica!

Benefiting Maxwell Graf – Art by Kylie Sabra, with 90% of all sales going to Max and Lyrric

Kylie’s work – landscapes, avatar studies, abstracts, is evocative, emotive and exquisite. It is ideal for in-world display, and a superb addition to any collection belonging to the discerning connoisseur of virtual and digital art. Her outdoor gallery space at Buckingham Palace in Antiquity also makes for an idyllic visit.

So why not combine a visit to the historic Antiquity regions and time appreciating Kylie’s artistry with an opportunity to further help Max and Lyrric with a purchase or two?

Benefiting Maxwell Graf – Art by Kylie Sabra

SLurls and Links

DixMix: Elo, Maloe, Uma and a little change

DiXmiX Gallery – Uma Sabra

DixMix Gallery, curated by Dixmix Source, opened a new exhibition featuring the work of  Elo (elorac Paule), Maloe Vansant and Uma Sabra in mid-September; and it is fair to say come of the images presented should be considered NSFW.

As well as the exhibition – appropriately entitled Elo, Maloe, Uma, the gallery has under gone some alterations, and with them comes a new SLurl / landmark. The overall design remains the same, with the exhibition space divided into three halls – the Black Grey and White galleries, with both lower floors and mezzanine levels. Also retained is The Atom club space, with the rooms behind it now given over to Dixmix’s work.

DiXmiX Gallery: Elo

However, located within the Black Gallery space is the entrance to Womb, a new exhibition area located below the main building, and finished in a very futuristic style somewhat at odds with the main display halls, but nevertheless also complimenting them. I’m not sure if this is designed to be a further space for exhibiting different artists or whether it is intended to be dedicated to Megan’s work (which was being displayed during my visit).

Of the three artists exhibited in the main hall, two, Maloe and Elo, have been reviewed in these pages a number of times while exhibiting at various galleries in Second Life. Both offer striking avatar studies – the focus of this exhibition – but I do confess to being biased towards Elo somewhat because I do find her work powerfully expressive. This is certainly the case here, with some 12 pieces of her work presented in monochrome, in keeping with the theme of the gallery’s Grey exhibition hall.

DiXmiX Gallery: Maloe Vansant

Uma Sabra’s art occupies the White Gallery on the mezzanine level, where she presents 16 studies of herself strikingly taken against a plain black background. All be three are nude shots, the exceptions being three facial portraits which are, for me, the most striking.

Maloe’s work occupies the lower floor Black Gallery and is the richest in terms of colour and style, with several of the pieces presented as paintings more than photographs. Through all of them there is a very tactile element; it’s hard not to want to reach out and run a finger lightly over the surface of several of the pieces.

DiXmiX Gallery: Megan Prumier

A balanced and nuanced exhibition featuring three superb artists.

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