Most of today's mobile augmented reality apps focus on individual experiences, but a new entrant into the space wants to make things a bit more social.
Battle tested for years in the realm of virtual reality, vTime is finally bringing its immersive social chat experience into AR.
To wrap your head around this idea, first, it's important to explain what vTime is. For the last few years, vTime has allowed VR users to meet each other in VR using avatar bodies via headsets like the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Go, Google Daydream, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
I've spent a lot of time in vTime, and it's one of the VR apps that fundamentally changed how I see VR, primarily because it's incredibly immersive and effective in facilitating virtual meetings with people in far away places. The app also allows you to customize your avatar so you can look close to your real self in the virtual world.
The VR app doesn't just allow you to meet with other people (well, their avatars) in virtual environments, but you can all move to different areas and rooms while talking (on a beach, on a mountain top, around a campfire, or on a moving train). The virtual environments make the VR experience feel a lot more immersive and not unlike using a Star Trek transporter to hold meetings in various virtual places.
Now, the new AR Mode in the vTime mobile app for iOS and Android devices supporting ARKit and ARCore allows users to interact with social VR users without the need of a VR or AR headset. This new dynamic, which the company teased about a year ago, opens vTime's hidden VR world up to AR users who prefer to keep one foot in the real world while engaging other vTime users.
Like many ARKit and ARCore apps, the process starts by using your smartphone to scan for a nearby surface. After you've established a surface scan, you place the virtual environment in your real-world space and either monitor or engage various vTime virtual chat sessions.
The app is free and only requires the creation of a user account. And unlike some immersive computing apps, the team behind vTime is quite responsive to end-user concerns, so if there's something you don't understand or need help with, it's generally easy to get in contact with the team to get some help.
On the one hand, I think vTime works quite well in VR and I'm not sure I'd want to use this AR Mode to engage the app because the fully immersive, VR version of vTime is just that good. However, for users who don't have access to an immersive headset, the smartphone apps could act as an in-between step, and could soon become a vital link between the worlds of VR and AR when it comes to avatar-driven chats.