VR is struggling to get more mainstream applications at this point. Unlike AR, there aren’t that many killer applications that make the prospect of strapping on a VR headset on the regular all that appealing. One area which might make VR systems popular for things besides gaming and simulations is that of communication. Yes we have email, IM, VOIP and video calls, but there is still no good system that really makes us feel present with the other person in the room. That is until a host of VR chat apps started appearing.
Pluto VR is the latest addition to the so-called “social” VR application craze. AltSpace is probably the most famous one, but Facebook also has Spaces thrown into the mix with quite a few more minor contenders in the ring. Entering this nascent market is a startup named PlutoVR, who have made their VR chat offering available as an open Alpha on the Steam platform.
I’m Feeling It
With Pluto you can make your own avatar, albeit an avatar that only consists of a face and hands. Yet based on the videos of the software in action the motion tracking is wonderfully smooth and a head and hands are surprisingly adequate for conveying non-verbal meaning.
According to GeekWire the company has been working on the software since 2014 and a closed Alpha has already been completed. Now they need public feedback to perfect and shape the software into something that customers actually want to use.
It might seem like just another startup, but the pedigree of the folks who have been working on this product is actually quite impressive. It includes former staff from Disney and Microsoft among others. Which means the combined experience in this small Seattle outfit could be formidable.
The Cost of Conversation
At the moment Pluto is a free alpha and the developer says that the core functionality of the program will always be free. They haven’t given any details on exactly how the product will be monetized. Obvious options are selling premium avatars or allowing for larger groups. This will be a key part of whether Pluto is successful or not. Even if you have neat technology, people have to be willing to pay.
Of course, if the company ends up making something really great and impressive, don’t be surprised if Facebook or Google simply buys them outright. Either way, here’s hoping we can chat in a comfortable virtual world sooner rather than later.