With the closing of AltspaceVR, educators and platforms are stepping up to help AltspaceVR users transition to other platforms. We’ve put together a shortlist of tutorials and workshops to help you through the process, as well as some criteria to consider as you explore your options.
Educators in VR has presented workshops and taught on over 20 different VR platforms since 2018. We’ve have found a solid home on ENGAGE XR. On the platform since the beginning of 2019, we’ve watched it evolve into a powerful and flexible platform that can handle the most simple meetings to sophisticated teaching experiences and conferences. VictoryXR makes their home there, teaching a wide catalog of classes and workshops in chemistry, physics, science, and so much more affiliated with many universities and colleges.
ENGAGE XR hosts a wide range of free introductory workshops and will be offering migration training soon to support those transitioning from AltspaceVR. Check out their support documentation.
Educators in VR’s World Building Team and other special interest groups will be hosting events on a wide range of platforms. We’ve been developing two-part workshops to introduce our members to a new platform, followed the same day or a few days later with a meetup there to explore it in person. We will also be hosting sessions with developers and owners of many different platforms to help you learn about all your options. Keep an eye out for those events starting in April. See our How to Attend an Educators in VR Event Guide for a list and more information about the wide variety of platforms.
Ryan Schultz has the best and most comprehensive updated list of VR platforms and their features for you to investigate on your own.
What to Consider in a VR Platform
Our list of criteria to consider to help make your social VR platform migration decision is long, and based upon our experience and needs, representing schools, teachers, researchers, and businesses. These might help with your own decisions.
Healthy and Diverse Community: There is nothing better than a diverse community with shared common interests towards respect, integrity, compromise, and appreciation for differences, which keeps the community healthy and active, and fosters loyalty. AltspaceVR thrived in many ways due to the powerful AltspaceVR Community Standards that stood the test of time and community. One thing AltspaceVR users know for sure, their lives were changed by the relationships and experiences shared on the platform, and those relationships will continue long after.
Safety: AltspaceVR introduced the first personal safety bubbles and strong personal, world, and event moderation features that allowed us to control our experiences. The block feature gave users the ability to block someone and remove them from each other’s personal experience. With a couple clicks, the annoying person was literally gone from view. Not all social VR platforms have such powerful safety and moderation tools, though they are improving. Make it a priority to understand the privacy and safety protections on each platform. For specifics, check out our VR Event Guide.
Access: The ability to access from anywhere to the platform through the widest range of devices ensures a diverse and stronger community. The platform should support, at a minimum, 2D/desktop (Win/Mac), Quest, Pico, HTC, Valve, HP, SteamVR and Android and iOS. In a better world, it would also support PlayStation VR, XBox, and browser-based headsets and devices. That’s just the start. It needs to focus on performance from the perspective of the platform as well as internet access, ensuring the number of uses in a world or event have a solid experience with no glitches. There needs to be a checks and balances testing process to ensure world builders and hosts are warned when their VR creations are pushing the boundaries based on file sizes and number of items.
Event Management: Educators in VR has a long laundry list of requirements for VR event management, production, presentation, moderation, and interaction, which is why ENGAGE XR meets the majority of our needs. Few platforms do…yet. If you wish to teach or host any form of social or business event or conference, here is our criteria.
- Easy Event Booking: AltspaceVR was an amazing and powerful event program. Yet, it took, on average, 8 minutes to book an event, 16 minutes from scratch. We tracked this over many years, eventually reducing our time to 4 minutes on average, but that’s still too long. Booking over 800 free and public events in VR annually, that time adds up. Allowing the user to quickly book an event with few forms, dropdowns, and checkboxes. Allow the user to duplicate and edit events easily, and make drafts to hold events in the ready. Helpful step-by-step tips in the event form are also critical including little details like the size of the event image and what the terms mean.
- Easy Event Management: The best VR events are the ones where the hosts and teachers can focus on the participants and topic and not fiddle with platform specifics. While booking times were long in AltspaceVR, it was due to all the options we could set before the event opened. We could set the world, the audience cap, host and moderator permissions, and so much more. This ability is so critical to limit the fuss upon starting an event. If the platform you are investigating doesn’t front-end those elements, prepare to open the event early to make sure all the buttons are pushed and things are in place before people enter the door, putting the focus on the audience and not the fiddling.
- Ticketing/RSVP: While many of our events are free, Educators in VR hosts many paid public and private workshops, classes, and conferences that require ticketing and RSVP/Guest Lists. If this is important to you, check the event management features to ensure this process is simple and easy to add people to an access list in advance, and doesn’t require having a web browser open to approve entry during the event. Be aware ticketing services on third party and platforms often has a fee.
- Audience Cap: Some events deserve hundreds of attendees. Some, we don’t want more than 6 or 12 participants to allow for a personal, one-to-few experience. Having the flexibility to host events of both audience sizes is critical to our success, and maybe yours.
- Presentation: The features that make events powerful are many, but the ability to control audio by muting audience members, interaction through an easy to use Q&A system (not just waving their arms around to get your attention), amplifying the speaker(s) and others automatically and manually, and being able to host a wide range of presentation content like slides, videos, browsers, whiteboards, sticky notes, drawing, and 3D models, is essential. As VR educators, we want to stop being experts in PowerPoint slides and reliant upon YouTube to make our points. In VR, we have the ability to walk students through a jet engine or walk on Venus or Jupiter. Let’s do that!
Comfort and Familiarity: VR is a challenge. We know that. It’s important that the platform experience be comfortable and familiar. Movement and the UI should be easy to use and function intuitively. Early avatars were often clunky, or embraced esports and gaming avatars that made the avatars an event to see. Choosing a platform that allows universal avatars and a full body avatar experience, or close to it, we believe is important for new user comfort levels. Platform retention is often based upon embodiment and presence within those avatars with personal representation, be it human, robot, or animal. Consider the user experience and avatar choices when choosing a platform to match the needs of your community and clients.
Interactables: Picking things up, examining them, placing them, these are all essential skills to learning anything, especially when role-playing and experiential learning are involved. VR platforms with static, animated, and interactive models are essential for educators. Check the platform’s asset and artifact inventory to see if they have the templates and models you need, and if they are interactable. If they don’t, ensure they have a creators tool or the ability to import from Unity, Blender, etc.
World Building and Customization: Meeting together is often more important than where we meet. However, education often requires a specific location and surrounding to enhance the learning experience such as walking through that jet engine in an airport hanger or manufacturing floor, or studying history with a walk through ancient Athens Acropolis. The ability to customize worlds, choose from a variety of templates, and import your own, is a key feature. The process should integrate easily with Unity, Blender, SketchFab, Maya, and other 3D building platforms and tools. We also look for a platform’s support of the most recent stable versions of Unity and other tools. AltspaceVR was among the earliest adopter of Unity’s Universal Pipeline Render and Linear Color Space technology. Unfortunately, migration means downgrading as other platforms haven’t updated their Unity versions.
Community: Educators in VR decided to focus mostly on those already investigating VR rather than bringing unconvinced educators, schools, and businesses. While we offer introductory training sessions, we wanted to serve those who’d already had a taste and wanted more. AltspaceVR was a community with many communities within it. The community helped people find each other and find commonality in wonderful and beautiful ways. These communities will persist, and travel together, for sure. A healthy community is one that welcomes new members often. Moving onto a platform with a history of being welcoming and safe makes it easier for communities to migrate and evolve. A strong community also molds the platform it is on; it defines it. We know that the communities of AltspaceVR will have a powerful effect on any social VR platform.
Costs: There are a variety of costs associated with many VR platforms. There are paid subscriptions and customization. Ask yourself do they support traditional payments, bitcoin, or other forms of currency? What are the costs, and are their discounts for paying annually, referrals, or coupons? Free access is slowly disappearing, and pay-to-play increasing, which is understandable, but what’s your budget? What can your community afford? Do they have to pay to attend your events or worlds, or you pay and invite them as free users? Can money be made on the platform? The financial aspects of some platforms are simple and clear, but many are convoluted and confusing. Know what you are paying for and be ready for those fees to change over time.
Social VR Platforms
Here is a list of the most popular social VR platforms with information on migration. As mentioned, Educators in VR has a home base on ENGAGE XR, and we will be expanding some events onto and exploring other platforms, many not on this list.
These are not recommendations. Our needs listed above may not match yours. Research thoroughly. Talk to others on the platform. Dig into their support documentation to make sure they are adequately supporting their community, both on the website as well on Discord and other social platforms.
VRChat has long been a favorite place for AltspaceVR users, though its reputation for abuse in the public areas continues, causing anxiety for many. Their new Groups feature allows VRChat+ subscribers to make a group and invite friends to join, making it easier to connect and communicate. It is still new, but does make event hosting a bit easier, especially with Group Instances.
Universe (formerly TryUniverse) has a long history of offering educational programs in Unity, world building, programming, etc. in AltspaceVR, and they are offering an introductory workshop for free to help those transitioning their worlds from AltspaceVR to VRChat, which includes information to help with migrating Unity worlds to other platforms, too. The free intro and the full paid workshop taught by our Educators in VR Virtual Hardware Team Leader, Mark Jeffcock. If you are interested, please join our Educators in VR Discord or become a member or volunteer for a discount code.
- Creating Your First World in VRChat – VRChat
- Setting up the SDK in VRChat
- How to Make a Custom VR World VRChat Start to Finish (Unity and Blender) – YouTube
Spatial is one of the most talked about newer platforms, ideal for 2D users. We’ve been informed that they are improving their VR headset access and experience.
- How to Migrate Your AltspaceVR Worlds and Communities to Spatial – Spatial (Medium.com version)
- How To Set a Custom Environment in Spatial.io – YouTube
- Custom Environments – Spatial
- Uploading Content & Supported File Types – Spatial
Mozilla Hubs is ideal for those wishing to keep their VR experience browser-based, and many schools and educators are thriving on Hubs.
- Importing Your Own 3D Model into Mozilla Hubs and Spoke (Read Description for Important Information) – YouTube
- Adding Content · Hubs by Mozilla
- Importing Content · Hubs by Mozilla
- VR Software wiki – Mozilla Spoke
Many educators have embraced Frame VR, the platform that also runs VirBela. The potential for web browser access makes it very appealing as it works with a wide variety of devices.
- Frame Blog: Uploading Your Own Frame Environments
- Frame: Upload Your Own Environments – YouTube
- Frame Guides and Resources
- Intro to VR with Unity and A-Frame – YouTube
- How To Use WebXR A-Frame for VR Unity Render Streaming/CloudXR – YouTube
- VR Optimization and Performance Tips for Unity – YouTube
Announced last fall, Rec Room now offers the Rec Room Studio creator tool with a Unity Editor to allow importing assets, the Unity Terrain Editor, Unity ProBuilder, custom sounds, and more. The platform supports millions of uses and paid out USD $1 million to creators in the first half of 2022. This past fall they also introduced stronger age restrictions, adding a Junior Account for those under 12 years old with parental approval in compliance with Oculus/Meta’s recent requirement to block under 13 players.
Saying Goodbye to AltspaceVR
We know that the communities in AltspaceVR will continue and evolve. This is life, virtual and real. We are heartbroken about the virtual worlds that will be lost with the closing of AltspaceVR, and we are doing our best to help preserve the history and legacy of the powerful pioneering platform.
We will see you in ENGAGE XR and other platforms. We will also be helping you transition and migrate your own social VR experiences and artwork in the metaverse.