News: AltspaceVR's Democracy Plaza Puts You in the Middle of the 2016 Election

AltspaceVR's Democracy Plaza Puts You in the Middle of the 2016 Election

AltspaceVR's Democracy Plaza Puts You in the Middle of the 2016 Election

Most of us don't get the opportunity to see election coverage first hand, but with virtual reality, we're not as restricted. AltspaceVR has teamed up with NBC News to let you log in on your computer or VR headset and actually take part in the action—just not physically.

AltspaceVR created a virtual Rockefeller Center Plaza where we can take our virtual avatars to get a front row seat of NBC News' election coverage this year. Anyone with a Mac or Windows PC can tune in and participate, but if you want the immersive experience, you'll need a VR headset like the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or Samsung Gear VR.

Participants gather on the virtual ice rink to watch NBC News' 2016 election coverage in VR. Image via AltspaceVR

Regardless of your platform, you can do more than just watch. You can attend a ribbon cutting ceremony with Al Roker and attend a live Q&A with Steve Kornacki. Here's the full schedule of events so far, leading up to the night of the election:

  • September 21, 6:00 p.m. (ET): Opening event—ribbon cutting ceremony with Al Roker
  • September 26, 8:30 p.m. (ET): Debate watch party and audience vote/after-party
  • September 29, 12:30 p.m. (ET): Ask the political expert—Q&A with Steve Kornacki
  • October 4, 8:30 p.m. (ET): V.P. Debate watch party
  • October 9, 8:30 p.m. (ET): Debate watch party
  • October 19, 8:30 p.m. (ET): Debate watch party
  • November 8, 6:00 p.m. (ET): Live election night coverage

AltspaceVR and NBC News have plans to add more, so keep an eye on AltspaceVR's event page for updates.

Chances are you know we're involved in one of the most unusual political seasons in US history. Kindness has taken a backseat to rude remarks and violence, with both major parties participating in this negative campaign in both ways.

Virtual avatars of Hillary and Trump nearly make physical contact in virtual space. Will this someday mirror reality? Image via AltspaceVR

Given the uncontrolled, highly opinionated nature of the internet that often fosters trolls, you might wonder how this will all play out in virtual reality. In some ways, it seems like a perfect recipe for controversy—even if you've got a decent coping strategy.

To mitigate adversity, AltspaceVR has a few features in place that participants can make use of to keep things civil:

With our latest User Interface, launched August, we have incorporated several new tools for social interaction. In addition to the mute feature mentioned above, we have a personal space bubble that essentially keeps people an arms length away—literally preventing people from getting in your face. there is also a block feature, which removes you and the person you block from each other's experience. You and they could be in the same room but you neither hear nor see each other.

— AltspaceVR

You can also mute other avatars in AltSpaceVR, and thanks to 3D sound, you will hear what's closer to you. If someone talking makes it hard to hear the presenters of the event, or a video playing, you can just move farther from that person and closer to the screen. Each event will have moderators present to help out, and if you create your own space for you and your friends, you can eject problem people from the room if things get nasty. Much like the real world, you'll have to manage your space.

You can find a comfortable location on the ice rink and set your personal space bubble to keep people out of your face—if you want to. Image via AltspaceVR

AltspaceVR provides some helpful tools, so we can only hope citizens of the internet will utilize them if a clash between political leanings causes tension in the virtual world. Better yet, if we can all remember to treat each other with respect, we won't need those features at all.

If you want to check it out, coverage will begin at 9:00 a.m. (ET) / 6:00 a.m. (PT) on Wednesday, September 21, 2016. You can download the relevant copy of AltspaceVR on their site, whether for your 2D Mac or Windows PC, or one of the supported VR headsets like the HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, or Oculus Rift. Then, head to AltspaceVR's NBC News page and jump into the action.

Cover image by AltspaceVR

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