Spatial is bringing VR hangouts and NFT galleries to web browsers

Smart handling of audio and the ability to digitize physical spaces make Spatial a perfect platform for virtual working or socializing... and virtual exhibits.

Spatial feels like a cross between Zoom and IMVU or Second Life. You can create a 3D avatar using an image of your own face, wander around 3D environments, interact with other users, present, or collaborate. But until recently, to get the best experience, you needed to use a VR headset like the Oculus Quest or HTC Vive. That’s no longer the case because the latest version of the platform makes it possible to jump into, explore, and socialize using Spatial from a web browser on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

This broader accessibility is being promoted with a series of events this month and next, many of them exhibitions of virtual artworks — stills, GIFs, videos, and 3D sculptures — and many of those artworks NFTs (it is 2021, The Year of the NFT, after all). It’s also going to host music production sessions with producer Illmind, and offer a tour of artist Krista Kim’s Mars House, an NFT “property” that recently sold for $500,000.

Spatial’s platform is perfect not just for viewing virtual art (a virtual art gallery is an ideal way to experience digital works) but it’s also great for socializing as you would in a brick-and-mortar art gallery thanks to Spatial’s spacial audio feature that boosts the volume of avatars or audio-containing artworks near you... like moving between groups of people or multimedia works in the real world.

Legless and limitless — We had the chance to try out Spatial’s latest browser-based offering earlier this week. We started in a virtual auditorium, before moving through a selection of workspaces, virtual art galleries, and eventually Kim’s aforementioned Mars House, which she describes as “a meditative and healing space built for the metaverse.”

The experience was impressive — we were able to speak to the organizers near a virtual campfire while other groups talked around us, and artists were able to drop NFT artwork into a gallery in real-time, which we were then able to view and interact with. Collectors looking to buy NFT art will be able to click through straight from the works themselves, and aside from being a natural medium for the medium, we were struck by the possibilities for interactions pandemic life has denied us.

An NFT gallery in Spatial.Spatial
A Spatial boardroom.Spatial
A SpaceX-themed virtual environment in Spatial.Spatial

Log on, drop in, hang out — While Zoom has become the gold standard for virtual interactions over the last year, it’s not great for large groups, and there’s something about the straight-on camera view that’s isolating and which makes us more self-conscious, not less. With its replicated gestures, photo-generated avatars, adaptable audio, and infinite location possibilities, Spatial felt far more social and natural... even if the avatars are all floating torsos. Not needing a headset makes it even better.

A rising tide — Spatial has roped in artists like Federico Clapis and Jarlan Perez, and NFT marketplaces OpenSea and SuperRare for its virtual exhibitions. It’s also gotten Superchief Gallery involved, a fitting partnership given Superchief recently opened a physical, dedicated NFT gallery in New York.

One of Spatial’s virtual gallery spaces.Spatial

“We’re excited to be partnering with Spatial to promote the work of our unique and talented artists in a beautifully designed gallery setting,” says OpenSea’s growth and community lead, Hamish Barnes. “The 3D web app allows an incredible sense of immersion in the space, and the ability to highlight their work is key to our core mission of empowering all kinds of creators.”

With plenty of companies abandoning physical office space, we wouldn’t be surprised if solutions like Spatial’s become more common. Given what they’re now capable of, at least that’s not the saddening prospect it once was.