Social VR Platforms
Places for People to be Together in VR
Welcome to the Featured Platforms Page. Social VR Platforms are not the Metaverse, but they should be at the heart of it. Components of one overall system are beginning to take shape for us just in time.
AltspaceVR … Engage XR … Fortnite… Glue … Horizon Worlds … Hubs … Rec Room … Roblox … Roooms … Rumii … Somnium … VR Chat … VTime XR … Wander
Launched in another lifetime (2015), AltspaceVR was once an independent venture but it had a Near Death Experience (NDE)in 2017. For several months, it stopped functioning as a VR platform.
After being declared clinically (financially) dead, Microsoft took over. What had been was rapidly resurrected and the pioneer app has been gradually incorporated into mega-corporation overarching strategies in ways that are opaque.
Its roots are solidly in education, launched in 2014 under the banner of Immersive VR Education by David and Sandra Whelan in Waterford, Ireland. The couple’s and the company’s goal is to create an education system in VR.
There are three versions of Fortnite and one them, Fortnite: Battle Royale is either the most or the second most popular game in the world depending on how you count.
Running Fortnite on the Quest or Quest 2 requires a sideload of the Android version. Another option is to use Virtual Desktop to stream the Fortnite to the Quest.
This browser-based collaboration platform is still in Beta. It works on mobile, laptop and VR headsets and is designed for meetings, collaboration and events. There are good preset spaces and objects and easy ways to upload custom content.
Frame was developed by Virbela, started by an organizational psychologist. It feels like an easy tool for small groups to use for meetings, events and collaboration. The free pricing tier is generous. Virbela was purchased in 2018 by eXp Realty, which has created a virtual network with over 40,000 realtors on the platform.
Fake Productions, an award-winning animation and gaming studio in Helsinki, Finland developed Glue, a full-featured business collaboration platform.
With its background in gaming, it’s not surprising that one of Glue’s distinguishing features is its use of AI in its avatars and its overall attention to shared social presence. There is a free pricing tier with 30 minute session times but this is primarily a business product with pricing at about $60/user/month.
The owner is Facebook and its concept is social creativity. It has not grown rapidly but it has a strong group of creators which is working out issues of content moderation and governance on the fly.
The creativity that Horizon Worlds enables may be more than many people are used to, but with a little start-up help, it could be just what some people are looking for — a place for working on things together with your inner artist.
Hubs doesn’t have the playful feel of Horizon Worlds or the university catalog of learning objects offered by ENGAGE. What it has is ease, ease of access and ease of adapting to the worlds on its platform.
Hubs doesn’t make a strong statement about what it is, except easy. It feels to me like a bare bones Airbnb, which is just what you need sometimes.
When they say VR is a game, Rec Room might be what they’re talking about.
Playing games with people all over the world is pretty cool. I am not a gamer and Rec Room is changing, allowing a broader range of events to take place.
Roblox took a big step into Social when it announced Voice Chat in October, 2021.
Big Deal, Voice Chat is not exactly radical but it’s a big step up from Text, which is what Roblox has been limited to from the beginning. Deliberate. One step at a time. These are virtues from another era.
This non-app, browser-based platform is designed and offered as a Business-to-Business (B2B) product, based on open standards such as WebVR and WebGL.
rooom helps fill the vacuum created when on-location trade shows and conferences shut down during the pandemic by letting customers design their own high-end marketing experiences to run just about anywhere, from mobile to laptops to VR headsets.
Rumii started with an education and training focus and at some point pivoted to a broader and more basic idea: VR as an immersive medium for distributed/distance communications that is immersive, secure, interoperable, and extensible.
Now Rumii is one of the Social VR platforms being used by at least some parts of the US Military/Intelligence network, including the US AF, DIA, and Booz, Allen, Hamilton.
Somnium Space VR, is one of the leading Blockchain-based platforms. It is social in that there is interact with other people, primarily to sell things.
3D objects can be treated or imported and sold as NFTs. Virtual land can be purchased as an investment. Anyone can explore and play for free but building your own spaces inside the platform costs something in the local currency, the CUBE, which needs to be purchased.
Spatial is a meeting environment, like a videoconference in an immersive VR space. One of its special features is the use of AI to map 2D photos onto 3D avatar models to create more realistic avatar faces.
Spatial was developed by a well-funded group of AR/VR and 3D design experts focused on enterprise clients. It has a free tier, then Pro and Enterprise tiers.
It is easy to argue that VRChat most exemplifies the wild and crazy, creative and frightening, savory and unsavory sides of VR. Which is not what you’d expect from a platform that is also arguably the largest social VR platform, backed by almost $100 million of venture capital.
Somehow, despite or because of all the do-re-mi around for VR right now, VR Chat has maintained its slightly scary, outlaw vibe so far. Which is amazing considering it has around 20,000 people doing weird stuff concurrently at all times.
This app claims a lot of firsts and it has the (virtual) reality to back all of them up. It was the first social app on mobile (for Gear VR in 2015), the first social app on Google cardboard (2016), the first social app to allow user uploads of 360 degree images (2017), and the first cross-reality social app with an AR mode.
vTime’s functionality is extremely basic, but that might be enough for more uses than we have tried out. It allows four people to be in a world and talk. That’s it. That’s a lot. There is an excellent set of pre-fab worlds and an easy way to upload your own 360 images to serve as worlds.
Being immersed in places without traveling there is one of the wonders of VR. Exploring the world virtually on your own can be fun for a while. A narrated tour can keep it engaging longer. But only one experience never gets old — doing it with other people.
Wander VR enables anyone to be immersed in Google Streetviews from anywhere. What makes it a social platform is the Private Room feature — group traveling for up to six people. It is developed and published by Parkline Interactive, located in Boston, MA.