A VR Christmas

  1. Altspace VR: This is where we’ll meet for our big Christmas gathering. While most social apps have a limit of 4 people who can connect at once, Altspace allows for 30+ to gather. Better yet, folks without a headset can join via computer. A fellow user taught me how to create a “world” of my own — in my case, a glass house with a hot tub, Christmas tree, playable piano, and giant YouTube screen, which I’ve been using to play mood music. I’ve also been exploring other users’ “worlds”: winter wonderlands, Asian temples, caves, taverns, and more. After we socialize at my glass house, I’ll take folks on a “worlds tour,” generating portals that we can use to travel together from virtual place to place. Later, those who are interested can play “Holograms against Reality” (a VR version of “Cards Against Humanity”) and pelt each other with virtual snowballs.
  2. Alcove: Alcove was created for the purpose of connecting with family, particularly for older folks. Unlike Altspace (which works best if at least one person learns how to make a world or host an event), it’s designed to be very easy to use. Veteran users can even “lead” newbies around the space, meaning that my parents won’t even have to navigate the space on their own. My favorite feature is the ability to upload one’s own photos and videos, including those in 360 and 3D format. Family photos adorn the walls of my virtual Alcove house, and I’ve preloaded all sorts of videos on the virtual TV: GoPro footage from my snorkel trips and biking explorations, home videos from when my sister and I were little, even 3D snippets of favorite spots around my home island of Maui. There are also virtual checkers and chess boards for the more cerebral folks, and “trips” we can take together around the world (thanks to 360 videos that Alcove provides). The app limits groups to four people or fewer, so we’ll take turns in this space — not a big deal since VR newbies are usually better off with shorter sessions and plenty of breaks.
  3. vTime XR: One of our family traditions is the card game Vertellis, which facilitates reflection about the past year. vTime provides beautiful scenery in which to sit, talk, and play this game. Four people can meet at time in locales such as a river in Yosemite, a tropical beach, and a rooftop café in Paris at sunset. vTime is set up to promote conversation: there’s no moving around as in Altspace or Alcove, but the avatars and locations are beautifully detailed. As a bonus, I’ll be able to take family members inside my own uploaded 360 photos.
  4. Bigscreen Beta: I’ve always been a fan of 3D movies. Bigscreen Beta brings this experience to anyone with a headset, with the ability to watch in groups of up to 4 (more if the host is connected to a gaming PC). If we find a movie we all like among Bigscreen’s rentals, we can all rent and watch it together. If not, my boyfriend has plenty to choose from on his desktop PC, which he can project into the app and use to stream a movie to the rest of us.
  5. Multiplayer Games: The first four apps are all free — perfect for my sister, who will be renting her headsets. For those of us willing to pay, we’ll also have some informal multiplayer gaming time. My top family-friendly recommendations: Walkabout Mini Golf, Eleven Table Tennis, Premium Bowling, and Cook-Out, a cooperative cooking game with a snowy holiday theme.
My avatar in my Altspace “glass house”

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Kristin Sherwood

Kristin Sherwood

Kristin is a Maui-based educator, writer, and VR enthusiast. Her current passion is creating a memorable Christmas celebration through virtual reality.