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Microsoft discontinues its social VR pioneer AltspaceVR

AltspaceVR has had a few close calls over the years, but the company that made virtual social spaces before the word “metaverse” became popular is closing down permanently. It is possible for it to have a name and a branding in the metaverse news.

After announcing that it would cease operations in 2017, Microsoft stepped in and claimed control of the business. Microsoft is canceling AltspaceVR’s virtual reality platform, a network of immersive social spaces that allowed users to hang out with friends or coworkers as 3D avatars.

When will AltsoaceVR stop?

AltspaceVR will stop its activites on March 10, and Microsoft will devote more resources to its Microsoft Mesh mixed reality platform.

According to the announcement, “We look forward to what is to come, including our launch of Microsoft Mesh, a new platform for connection and collaboration, starting by enabling workplaces around the world.”

“In the near-term, we are focusing our VR efforts on workplace experiences, learning from and alongside our early customers and partners, and ensuring we deliver a foundation that enables security, trust and compliance.”

Microsoft has designed many of its non-gaming products with companies in mind, and VR and mixed reality are no exception. After establishing its VR plans for the workplace, the company intends to “extend” them to consumers, it says.

AltspaceVR may have never collected a large user base, which is difficult in VR due to the need for specialized hardware, but the company was a pioneer in social virtual reality applications.

In 2015, AltspaceVR had developed a robust social VR platform where users could congregate in wood-paneled rooms with tranquil views, watch Taylor Swift music videos with friends, or use a virtual web browser. The use of spatial audio enhanced immersion by simulating how individuals hear sounds in real-world environments, and set the stage for virtual events.

AltspaceVR’s products

Microsoft discontinues its social VR pioneer AltspaceVR

At the time, the majority of VR resources and focus were allocated to cutting-edge gaming applications, not virtual hangout spaces. Six years later, Meta released Horizon Worlds, an AltspaceVR-like experience with its own neutral, non-offensive interiors and reasonably lifelike avatars.

It is unknown whether Microsoft intends to integrate the product into its other VR initiatives or abandon the project entirely. Given the timing, it is likely that AltspaceVR’s demise is associated with Microsoft’s dramatic corporate restructuring, which was announced this week. TechCrunch has contacted the company to learn more about what will happen to the team and technology at AltspaceVR in light of the news.

Microsoft announced that it would lay off 5% of its workforce, or 10,000 employees, in response to widespread layoffs in the technology sector. According to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, the reason for the significant layoffs was the uncertain economic climate and the slow recovery from the early pandemic’s tech boom.

“We will continue to invest in strategic areas for our future, meaning we are allocating both our capital and talent to areas of secular growth and long-term competitiveness for the company, while divesting in other areas,” Nadella stated.

It is unclear whether Microsoft is abandoning some of its metaverse plans or if AltspaceVR was simply discarded as a result of company-wide budget cuts. Facebook changed its name to “Meta” just over a year ago, igniting a buzzing hype cycle in the business community regarding a more immersive, possibly VR-powered vision for social networking.

A year later, the future of avatar-driven virtual social spaces is uncertain because the backlash phase of the metaverse discourse has already occurred. In 2023, non-VR online worlds continue to thrive, so it is possible that the metaverse never required specialized hardware. Nonetheless, it is essential to recall a company that was actively investigating these possibilities years before the tech industry’s lumbering titans appeared.

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About MahKa

Microsoft discontinues its social VR pioneer AltspaceVRMahKa loves exploring the decentralized world. She writes about NFTs, the metaverse, Web3 and similar topics.

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