Microsoft's social VR platform AltspaceVR added a new feature last week that lets users build their own shareable spaces in VR.
AltspaceVR lets users gather in a virtual world to play games, watch sports, listen to music, and hang out with celebrities, and now users can build their own virtual worlds and invite other users to join the process. Microsoft acquired AltspaceVR in 2017, and the latest feature marks the platform's first major upgrade since the acquisition.
Microsoft's focus on social VR could strengthen the appeal of the platform and VR in general:
- The new social feature taps into consumers' interest in social VR. Seventy-seven percent of VR headset owners in the US are interested in interacting socially in VR, which includes playing games, watching videos, and communicating through video. Among these users, nearly a quarter (24%) are interested in creating something in VR with friends. Altspace's new world-building feature meets this demand, increasing the platform's social VR draw.
- And bolstering AltspaceVR's social capabilities is crucial for VR headset adoption. For example, Microsoft sees social interaction as a key use case for driving VR adoption, according to Alex Kipman, a technical fellow at Microsoft. That's likely because social VR encourages a network effect in consumers — in which peers bring one another into the VR ecosystem.
But Microsoft will need to continue to differentiate and improve AltspaceVR as it enters a market where key players are battling to establish themselves. Facebook was the first toannounce a social VR platform; it launched Facebook Spaces in April 2017, and recentlyupdated the platform by letting users customize more parts of their avatars' appearances.
The company is likely in the best position to take the lead in social VR, as Facebook Spaces can leverage the firm's already established brand name as a social platform as well as its massive global user base. Microsoft will need to continue to roll out features and improvements to AltspaceVR if it hopes to make any meaningful impact in the social VR market.