At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as we were all locked away in our homes wondering when we might ever socialize again, many found refuge in a brand new world of virtual connectivity and creativity through an obscure little app known as AltspaceVR. It is here that we would begin our shared journey into XR design and creating immersive experiences. Altspace was our home for over three years, allowing us to find community and connection that will continue to surpass time (zones) and (physical) space. Thank you all for making so many memories with us! Now our journey continues…
Video Highlight Reel
Now that the platform has shut down we are not able to very easily demonstrate our work to those who have not yet seen it. We are seeking new platforms in which to upload some of our environments and experiences but for now we have put together this short video highlighting the diversity and detail of our worldbuilding work in AltspaceVR, our journey and the people we met in real life because of it, and a taste of where we are headed with some even being picked up by major broadcasters like CBS and PBS. Our future seems bright and we’re ready to sail ahead!
During our time in AltspaceVR we met an extraordinary amount of new friends, amazing creators and community leaders among a slew of wonderful funny passionate people just looking for a good social experience. It was the people, by a mile, that made Altspace so unique among its peers and it is they who we will miss most of all. This especially includes the team members and admins who worked tirelessly to keep up with the demands of their ever-growing audience and who never failed to help us find solutions to the strange outlier problems that always arose when we pushed their boundaries ever farther. Everyone was so helpful and caring and ready to educate and lift up everyone around them that it fostered a real sense of a connected community that we feel proud to have been a part of. There are too many of you to list individually but you know who you are and we appreciate you!
We primarily used AltspaceVR as our platform of choice for building and maintaining not only our own entertaining worlds but also most of our client projects as well. We found the platform to be the most “professional” out of the current choices and a place we were never afraid to send a client. The community was kind and readily helpful, the upload process was fairly painless, and the event tools were all there. Sure they weren’t the best implementation but at least they were there and they worked!
Our clients ranged from single individuals to worldwide organizations. The projects we’ve worked on as a result of our own experiences in AltspaceVR have been mind blowing when we sit and think back on everything. So rather than compress it all down into just a few paragraphs we’d like to really expand on each one and let the true scope of our own accomplishments speak for itself.
⭐ Working with United Nations, UNESCO, ActNow, and YOUNGA
Meaningful pictography flows up from the fire
Through the companies MilleniumArt and DreamlandXR we worked on the UN ActNow campaign to design and build digital twins of UNESCO world heritage sites such as the Al Wasl Dome in Dubai and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia. The events hosted in our worlds were always open for a full 24-hours to allow people from literally all across the world a chance to visit and hang out together in the spirit of the United Nations. A feat normally impossible in our everyday lives. They even had official multilingual translators working as event hosts!
Before that project, much earlier in our career, we worked with another UN-sponsored venture, YOUNGA by BridgingTheGap Ventures, to design a spaceship nightclub stage for music artist Pitbull to be beamed in holographically where he debuted his single “I Believe That We Will Win” to a packed audience spread across multiple instances. It was a rare and unique performance at the time involving a combination of green screen alpha keying, billboard projection, and a control panel rigged to spawn in 3D holographic objects at specific moments in the show.
You can watch the full performance here.
⭐ Going to Burning Man and Helping Stir Up the Digital Dust in VR
We have collaborated with Big Rock Creative to build out and operate the award-winning BRCvr event in AltspaceVR three years in a row. Not only have we contributed original experiences like Camp Burning Saucer, Donna Summer’s Sunrise Party, The Eco Zone, and Dinner With A Whale, but we also partnered with some traditional theme camps who were not able to 3D model their own art installations and helped to design and integrate their work for the community such as Mikey’s Hug Deli and the Merry Mad Tea Party. We were also fairly instrumental in helping to create many of the special effects employed by community builders like fire barrels, dust storms, ambient sounds, interactive toys, world templates, and more.
Cause + Christi on Burn Night with the 360 camera (our virtual burner)!
Because of our years of work with them we attended the real Burning Man in September of 2022 and camped with BRCvr in order to help them film in 360 degrees and 180 degree stereo. We trekked all over capturing artwork and interviewing the artists that created each piece, plus some generally visually wild moments for the experience of it. All of this will allow the Big Rock Creative team to put a native app together which will finally transport users to the playa for a true 1:1 visual and auditory experience that social VR, while fun, just cannot quite convey. Very exciting and we are looking forward to the final product!
On top of our work with BRCvr we actually had an important private gig with The Burning Man Project itself (article still to be written). They own a large area of land out in the Nevada desert (no surprise there) to be turned into a self-sustainable live and work community. For this we imported GIS data of the area, overlaid their projected layout plans, and used schematics of their intended structures to recreate the final physical space on a 1:1 scale in virtual reality. We added buildings, RV ports, solar shipping container farms, a field of giant artwork, art car repair barns, and more. This allowed executives of the project the ability to truly visualize where their investments were going in a more real time manner.
⭐ Hosting a Tribeca Film Festival Virtual Red Carpet Premiere
Earlier in our worldbuilding career, we were pulled into a project with Baobab Studios to create a Baba Yaga themed world in AltspaceVR so they could hold their virtual red carpet premiere during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns. We ended up working directly with one of the major artists on the film who provided a lot of guidance and original texture maps which allowed us to bring their 2.5D theatrical stage setup into a full on 3D forest to walk around in. We were also provided models of the major characters to sprinkle around the scene for some secret selfies!
Both Jennifer Hudson and Daisy Ridley, who starred in the film, were there live in attendance during the event. There were also members of the press and team members of Baobab Studios who, along with Daisy and Jennifer, all roamed around the world playing with the interactive objects and eventually ending up on our tree trunk stage for a Q&A session from the press core. CBS Mornings even did a live feature from inside the world while interviewing Maureen Fan, one of the CEOs for Baobab Studios.
Watch the full CBS interview: What to Expect for Entertainment in the Metaverse
⭐ Building the Digital Twin of a Famous L.A. Comic Shop
Another project we worked on with producer Big Rock Creative was to recreate a hyper accurate virtual reality digital twin of the legendary comic book shop Golden Apple Comics. We painstakingly crafted a perfect 1:1 interior space using nothing but Google Street View and some photography provided to us from both Doug Jacobson and the owners of the store. Christi even went above and beyond to find EVERY SINGLE POSTER in the real store online to be used as a texture so that the virtual interior was literally identical to the real one. The shelves were also lined with comics and toys, not one of which was a repeat and every single one being actually sold in the Golden Apple online store.
In the back of the store instead of a parking lot we designed them an original promenade style hangout area inspired by the famed Anaheim Convention Center. The store itself has a connection with the sister event WonderCon and has used their new venue to host numerous mixed reality panels of comic creators from Marvel, DC Heavy Metal, and more. Even filmmakers George C. Romero and John Carpenter held talks and Q&A sessions in there. This was also a very popular destination in Altspace at the time and was even featured in Briar Prestidge’s documentary “48 Hours in the Metaverse.”
⭐ Developing an Underground Holographic Hip Hop Cypher
The team at Collimation hired us to conceptualize and build a working virtual reality holographic hip hop cypher that would be broadcast into an underground VR subway station world, which we would also style out. They provided us a single video feed of the artists on a green screen backdrop and we used our knowledge of shader language and world design to instantly convert them into live 2.5 dimensional holographic projections on the middle of a steaming makeshift guerilla plywood stage laid across a blue-lit stairwell. We were quite proud of this effect and it was even featured on PBS in the first episode of their latest docuseries “Hip Hop in the Metaverse.” We were actually interviewed by them for that same episode but our segment was never included on air. What a shame!
Watch the full PBS episode: Hold Up, How Did Hip-Hop Become A Trailblazer in VR?
⭐ Designing an Underground Standup Comedy Club in Virtual Reality
One of our favorite projects so far was designing the official Failed to Render Comedy Club event space in AltspaceVR. We both have a special affinity for live comedy and Kyle Render has been doing an amazing job fostering these shows every night of the week in VR across multiple metaverse platforms. The underground club we designed is currently their flagship venue and in it the group has received attention from national comedians like Howie Mandel and Keenan Thompson.
After the AltspaceVR shutdown, we migrated their venue over to VRChat where the live shows still happen. Join their Discord for info and schedules!
⭐ From Fiction To Fact: Bringing The Foremothers Café to Life
Another project we’ve really enjoyed working on is bringing author Helen Lundström Erwin‘s fictional Foremothers Café to life in VR, straight from the pages of her book “Sour Milk in Sheep’s Wool.” In her book, set in 1900’s Sweden, the café was used after hours as a safe haven for the growing underground women’s suffrage movement allowing them to meet in safety and secrecy. What’s really cool is Helen, who before this had never stepped foot in VR, now uses her new virtual café to host empowering meetups with women as well as many people from all around the world.
Her café has migrated over to Spatial since the closing of AltspaceVR.
⭐ Launching the Synthwave Cyber Falcon Podcast Stage
Gliding Toward Simulation City
Have you heard about Johnny Android and his Simulation Nation podcast? With nearly 150 episodes in the bank at the time of writing this, he hosts a new live interview show every single week. His guest range from musicians, to writers, virtual creators, and more. They are all quite interesting and up until recently all of his episodes were broadcast live from AltspaceVR. Originally he hosted the show in a kit-bashed world he built himself from Altspace community-shared items, but we eventually stepped in with a very cool flying retro futuristic cyber punk stage design that fit perfectly with his show’s vibe. In fact the entire world is basically his show’s intro logo come to life around the audience! We’ve both been interviewed by Johnny for his podcast in the past and even both attended the final panel of experts the day before Altspace was set to sunset. We have since moved his show over to Spatial for now.
YouTube Videos: Watch Cause’s Interview | Watch Christi’s Interview | Watch the Final Panel
⭐ Being Featured in a Documentary about the Metaverse
Briar Prestidge: 48 Hours in the Metaverse - at the Winter Lodge by Cause + Christi
One noteworthy point is that much of our AltspaceVR work was heavily featured in the recent virtual documentary 48 Hours in the Metaverse by Briar Prestidge. We were lucky enough to spend about 8 of those 48 hours with her in and out of various experiences we either made personally or had a direct hand in creating for clients. We have even since met up with Briar in person at the 3rd Annual Polys WebXR Awards where she was presenting live and we were both backstage running the volumetric stage and cameras. Briar is a force of nature and an absolute delight to hang out with. We’re honored to have been included in her film, now preserving the best of our work for generations to see!
Watch the full documentary on YouTube: 48 Hours in the Metaverse
On top of being a part of Briar’s documentary film we were also invited as guests onto her podcast “Hyperscale” for an episode discussing our work in the field of digital twins and virtual worldbuilding. After hanging out together exploring our worlds and really just having fun chatting together she kept the conversation going before the documentary had been released. Great PR move if you ask us, though we might be biased haha! Be sure to check out her podcast and definitely catch our interview!
Listen to our podcast episode: How Digital Twins Will Transform Our World
⭐ Building Stages for Live Streaming Volumetric Video Projections
Most recently we even achieved a small piece of history when we worked with the 3rd Annual Polys WebXR Awards and Scatter at ZeroSpace in Brooklyn NY to pull off the world’s first live streaming volumetric captured mixed reality awards show. We worked behind the scenes directly with the creators of Depthkit Studio to create a solution for seamless on screen transitions and what we ended up with exceeded everyone’s expectations. We used our original WebXR Awards watch party space originally created for AltspaceVR but because it is a Unity build we were able to utilize it as the show’s stage. All of the camera movements and stage directions were handled via scripting and keypresses.
Along with providing the volumetric stage we also designed the AltspaceVR Funeral, which the broadcast cuts to midway. Athena Demos, cofounder of BRCvr and trusted community liaison, gave a heartfelt eulogy as a glass casket containing the original robot avatar and draped with a black flag adorning the AltspaceVR logo floated gently down the black carpet aisle to come to a standing rest next to a podium covered in candles and flowers. It was a touching scene and we are honored to have been able to provide the necessary settings and pieces.
Watch the full awards show on YouTube: The 3rd Polys – WebXR Awards – LIVE from ZeroSpace
⭐ Being Invited to Give Interviews, Live Talks, and Presentations
Due to our expansive portfolio of work in AltspaceVR we have also been featured on numerous panels, podcasts, and discussions. We were invited to speak at the XR Summit Series as content experts. We have been invited numerous times to the Augmented World Expo in San Jose CA and at the Immerse Global Summit in Miami FL as speakers and panelists. We’ve also led a fireside chat with a class of college level game design students at the ASU Learning Futures Creative’s Corner. Even the official Unity blog mentioned us in an article! It’s nice to know what we are doing is making an impact.
All in all, we are grateful for all of the experience, knowledge, and friendships we have gained through our journey on AltspaceVR. Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts to the entire community and team for just being there with us and for allowing us to express ourselves as we were able. We will miss you dearly and you will never be forgotten!