You may be feeling a sense of deja vu at news that social virtual reality platform AltspaceVR is being closed down. This almost happened once before, after its developers announced in 2017 they didn't have enough funding to keep the servers on. Shortly after they were saved by Microsoft, which acquired AltspaceVR in what seemed like a response to Facebook's pivot to VR. That renewed lifespan is about to end, with the announcement that AltspaceVR will be sunset on March 10.
"As we look to the future," the post from Team AltspaceVR says, "we see the opportunity for VR expanding beyond consumer into business and now have an even greater goal: a more open, accessible, and secure version of immersive experiences in the metaverse. To achieve that we have made the difficult decision to sunset the AltpaceVR platform on March 10, 2023, and shift our focus to support immersive experiences powered by Microsoft Mesh."
Microsoft Mesh is a mixed-reality communication platform that's based on holograms, using 3D captures to let people work together as if they were in the same space. It's impressive-sounding stuff, and a partnership between Microsoft and OceanX has resulted in a hologram lab on the research vessel OceanXplorer that lets scientists wearing HoloLens headsets both on the ship and on shore work together to examine the data being sent back by submersibles.
It's not the social experience AltspaceVR offered, however, which hosted club nights with live DJs, book launches, fashion shows, church meetings, language exchanges, stand-up comedy nights, and a lot of impromptu parties and gatherings. Microsoft Mesh is an explicitly business-oriented application of VR, one for work rather than hanging out. VRChat is the place to go for that kind of "Second Life but with goggles" experience these days, with its more memetic quality and love of bizarre locations like replicas of Kmart and a Waffle House on the Moon.
"Over the coming weeks," the announcement goes on, "we encourage the many creators and developers who are part of the AltspaceVR community to host final events and download their content." If you've got photos and other mementos from your time in AltspaceVR you'd like to hang on to, here's Microsoft's FAQ on downloading your data.