Update, 10/3/17, 12:40pm PT: Added a statement from Eric Romo, CEO and co-founder of AltspaceVR.
Microsoft revealed the final details about the Windows Mixed Reality platform set to launch in two weeks. Among the announcements, the company made a surprise reveal: it's the one that stepped in to save AltspaceVR.
Over the summer, AltspaceVR met financial turmoil, and the stage was set to see the popular social VR platform shut down for good. In late July, AltspaceVR announced that it would shut down on August 3.Then, days before the closure, Eric Romo, the company’s CEO, decided to “keep the lights on a little longer. Just in case.” After all, AltspaceVR developed several technologies that should be worthwhile to the VR industry, such as FrontRow, which enables unlimited audience sizes for live events, and VR Capture, which allowed AltspaceVR to rebroadcast VR events to accommodate people in other time zones.
Romo’s announcement suggested that the company may be in talks with an interested party, which somewhat fueled our speculation that Palmer Luckey could step in to buy AltspaceVR. Luckey himself suggested that he could be interested, and he certainly has the money on hand to make it happen. Today, our speculative (yet educated) guess that Luckey would be involved in saving AltspaceVR proved to be incorrect. Microsoft revealed that it was the hidden hand the kept AltspaceVR’s lights on.
"When we announced our closing, a common sentiment was that we were pioneers, if not ahead of our time. People were sad that they wouldn't be able to see what we could have built together with our community," said Romo. "I'm grateful that we get a chance to follow through on the story we started five years ago and see how much farther we can take this technology."
Microsoft didn’t discuss the details of the AltspaceVR deal; we don’t know if the company purchased AltspaceVR outright or if it invested heavily into the company. Regardless, AltspaceVR is now under Microsoft’s umbrella and part of the Windows Mixed Reality platform. Microsoft sees AltspaceVR as “one of the pioneers in immersive communication,” and it intends to shape it into “the world’s preeminent mixed reality community.”
AltspaceVR is available on several VR platforms, including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Daydream, and when Microsoft drops the Windows Mixed Reality platform on October 17, AltspaceVR will support that platform, too. AltspaceVR has always been free to access, and as far as we can tell, Microsoft intends to keep it that way.