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Altspace Shuts Down & Disney Resorts Get The Void

Recapping the top stories covered on the VRScout Report, a weekly podcast discussing the best in VR, hosted by Malia Probst. Social VR pioneer Altspace shuts down, ‘Second Life’ successor Sansar launches open beta, WebVR comes to Firefox, Disney wants you to be a Star Wars jedi in VR, the funding & investment wrapup, and more…

Featuring special guest Sophia Dominguez, co-founder of SVRF.com (the first search engine for immersive content), and creator of AllThingsVR, a weekly VR/AR newsletter.

1. SOCIAL VR PIONEER ALTSPACE CAN’T “KEEP THE VIRTUAL LIGHTS ON ANYMORE”

Founded all the way back in 2013 by Eric Romo, Altspace VR was a social world that broke new ground– allowing new and old friends to virtually congregate. Announcing via blog post that they ran into “unforeseen financial difficulty,” Altspace had raised almost $16M and was not able to finalize another round of funding. The platform was notable for its cross-platform functionality, enabling both mobile VR and high-end PC users to join in on the fun; it was also criticized for its lack of avatar customization (yes, everyone looked like robots) and lack of creator tools and monetization opportunities. It seems that, alas — the death of Altspace is here. Their timing was just too early (this is also a good moment to point out to any Chicken Littles out there that the rate of startup failure is 90% and there will be many more in the VR/AR industry… just like any other industry). But worry not, virtual friends: we still have VRChat, High Fidelity, BigScreen, Rec Room, vTime, Facebook Space, JanusVR, Decentraland (link to article), Sansar (join the now-open beta), and WebVR just officially debuted.

2. SOCIAL VR WORLD SANSAR FINALLY LAUNCHES OPEN BETA

Announced 3 years ago, virtual enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting Project Sansar — and now it’s here. Now just called plain ol’ Sansar, the platform has launched its open beta so anyone can explore and build immersive spaces. This new metaverse is from Linden Lab, the same company that built Second Life– and they clearly have taken learnings from that open world to Sansar: namely, monetization opportunities for creators. You can make 3D models and sell them on the Sansar store, and eventually you’ll be able to charge membership or ticket prices to attendees of virtual events (if, of course, your virtual venue is hot enough). Currently available on the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and accessible via PC, you can build up to 3 of your own worlds — and after that, Sansar charges a $9.99+/month fee depending on how many worlds you want to build. It looks gorgeous so far, and another great thing is that you can share your created world via its own individual link.

3. THE INTERNET IS NOW VR-READY… AT LEAST ON FIREFOX

Rolling out to the Firefox browser, with Chrome support expected later this year, WebVR is JavaScript API that lets you create virtual reality experiences… in your browser. It is essentially an internet protocol that lets your browser act like a regular web browser — except it can now transport you to VR content for the Rift and the HTC Vive. What does this mean? It makes it a lot easier for developers AND content consumers — you can just send a friend a link, no lengthy descriptions of what store to go to, what app to download and which experience to locate. In a nutshell… the metaverse just got a whole lot closer.

4. JUST LIKE IN THE 90s, THE GENERAL PUBLIC WILL FIRST TRY VR WITH DISNEY

Regardless of which Disney movie is your personal favorite (and we all have one — mine is Lion King), we can all admit that Disney is sitting on a mountain of cartoons made of money. The company’s IP is legendary, and just like in the 90s (did you ever make it to EPCOT as a kid?) Disney is making sure that the general public’s first taste of virtual reality will be with a world you already love… in this case, Star Wars. Teaming up with The VOID from Utah, the team behind theGhostbusters immersive activation in Time Square, Disney is bringing us immersive Star Wars experiences to similar high-foot traffic areas. So, if you’re right outside of the official park gates of Anaheim or Orlando– you can jump into the world of jedis without buying a ticket to the park. Sounds like Disney really wants everyone to experience the magic.

5. FUNDING & INVESTMENT WRAPUP

Based in Tel Aviv, Inception VR announced a Series A round of $15M hot on the heels of their recent partnership with Pitchfork. A production house and content platform, the company aims to be the Netflix of VR. Europe’s biggest broadcaster, RTL Group, led the round — with participation from Gigi Levy-Weiss, James Packer, and iAngels.

Based in Los Angeles, content company and platform Within has raised $40M in Series B funding; this round brings their total investment to $56.6M. The company was originally known as Vrse, and you probably know co-founder and CEO Chris Milk as the empathy machine guy. They have a big partnership with IMAX for location-based rollouts, and the Series B round was led by Emerson Collective and Temasek with participation from 21st Century Fox, Raine Ventures, WPP, Macro Ventures, and Andreesen Horowitz.

The Venture Reality fund, makers of fantastic industry infographics and who just released their Q2 Augmented Reality landscape, share their findings on the VR sector’s investment activity in Europe. The fund identified almost 500 companies, up from 300 from the first Europe-focused report from February 2017. It looks like regional points of concentration are the UK, France, Sweden, and Germany– and rising areas of focus are user input and enterprise solutions (like Improbable, which recently raised $500M), while gaming is the most competitive and saturated vertical.

…and just a few more

STRONG SALES BOOSTS APPLE STOCK PRIMES US FOR THE RELEASE OF ARKIT
CREATORS OF AMERICAN IDOL LAUNCH MIXED REALITY TV SHOW IN NORWAY
WILL GOOGLE LET YOU ANIMATE YOUR SCENES MADE WITH BLOCKS SOON?
THE METAVERSE TRYING TO BUILD ON BLOCKCHAIN
THE POPULAR CREATOR TOOL ‘QUILL’  LIVES ON UNDER FACEBOOK’S SOCIAL VR TEAM
HP WANTS YOU TO PUT YOUR COMPUTER ON YOUR BACK
THE 2ND GOOGLE TANGO COMPATIBLE PHONE IS FINALLY HERE… AND IT’S NOT MADE FOR GIANTS

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