Xconomy San Francisco—
As virtual reality startups explore the creative range of the new medium and expand its functions, simple entertainment can provide otherworldly possibilities. For example, AltspaceVR’s new playback feature allows you to sit at a comedy show next to you.
The background: AltspaceVR has transformed its virtual rooms into performance stages where real-life comics such as Reggie Watts can appear (as avatars) in live broadcasts attended by audience members wearing headsets scattered around the world .
Eric Romo, CEO of the Redwood City, Calif.-based VR startup, says the broadcasts have been a popular way for remote users to experience a concert environment where they can move around the venue, interact with artists, and join. their friends. Now the company is rolling out the virtual equivalent of a DVR, VR Capture, so fans who missed a show can catch it later.
AltspaceVR has a 12-hour marathon of past shows lined up for tomorrow starting at 11 a.m. PT. Headliners include comedian Watts, who is also the bandleader of James Corden’s Late Late Show; the Duncan Trussell multimedia comic; and actor and comedy producer Justin Roiland.
With VR Capture, Romo says, producers can now multiply the audiences of their star acts by scheduling repeat screenings. AltspaceVR, founded in 2013, doesn’t yet charge a fee to host live events in VR, or to record them with VR Capture, it says. Like many VR content providers, the company is experimenting with support and trying to build a VR fan base.
“It’s so new that the business models aren’t well defined yet,” Romo says. “We’re just trying to delight the audience.”
AltspaceVR has created a range of virtual settings where distant friends can get together to play games, watch TV shows together on a virtual 2D screen, or hold powwows to plan family vacations, for example. Participants appear as avatars, but are heard in their own voice.
When the company hosts a live show, it equips the performers with full-body motion capture sensors so that their avatars mimic their gestures and movements on stage. VR Capture “records” those movements and live audio, transmitting the data to the company’s servers, Romo says. It also stores the speech and movements of selected audience members who actively interact with the performers.
Additionally, the playback feature captures the general audience reaction over time, as each joke lands, for example. Participants press buttons on their controllers that release the emojis of their choice. Smiley faces, hearts and applause icons are some of the most popular, Romo says. The emojis float from the heads of the audience avatars and eventually fade away, like soap bubbles.
Like many VR experiences, watching an AltspaceVR replay involves mind-blowing possibilities. An artist or fan who was at the live show can join a later play and stand next to their own avatar, becoming a virtual look-alike. Romo says they played with this curious effect by having a presenter give themselves something onstage during a later screening.
In addition to comedy shows and concerts, VR Capture could be used to expand audiences for seminars and other types of presentations, Romo says. The new “record” and playback feature could also provide future enjoyment by allowing users to create remixes of original events, for example, or overlay their own commentary on the action, he says.
“We certainly don’t try to limit our thinking to events unfolding over time,” Romo says.