If you've lived in Tokyo for a while, you may know about awabar, a friendly little standing style bar in Tokyo's entertainment district of Roppongi. As their name suggests, they specialize in awa 泡 (bubbles), in other words sparkling wines, and have an international list to please most visitors. Conveniently located just a few minutes from Roppongi Station, it's also quite well-known in IT circles as a favorite hangout for IT managers and entrepreneurs.

In fact, owner Osamu Ogasahara is an experienced IT entrepreneur himself. CEO of hardware-focused startup incubator ABBAlab Co., fellow at web hosting company Sakura Internet Inc., senior fellow at online shopping site Mercari's research and development organization Mercari R4D, he started up awabar in 2010 not only as a place where people could casually stop by for sparkling wine and conversation, but also as informal meeting spot for exchanging ideas and starting new projects.

Understandably, the coronavirus pandemic put a damper on the usual flow of customers, and they were forced to temporarily close it. As luck would have it, however, Ogasahara had been in talks since a year ago about setting up shop in virtual space with his friend Takuya Nishimura. Nishimura would later become CEO of new VR platform ambr which is about to launch its open access Beta on May 25th. So, when Nishimura told Ogasahara about his plans for ambr, they soon came up with the idea of creating awabar.vr. Thanks to ambr's speedy implementation and hard work, they were able to launch the shop in time for ambr's open access beta launch.

Introducing awabar.vr

According to the press release:

At awabar.vr, which you can access free of charge in ambr, "you can become an avatar and enjoy drinking with your friends and strangers as if you were there. Virtual drinks, foods and toys that transcend reality will enable a new kind of communication. Through our efforts at awabar.vr, we propose an update to online drinking parties in virtual space. We also aim to create a place in the virtual world where leaders of the next era can get together, just as awabar has become a place for IT managers and entrepreneurs to meet."

At awabar.vr, there is no bartender or staff present at all times, so it's up to visitors to take up these roles and use the space creatively, making use of the props and items inside.

VR social platform ambr

ambr is "a new virtual world where everyone can gather using their favorite avatars and freely enjoy communication. You can join any room you like or create a room of your own and connect with friends, strangers, and different communities."

If you're already familiar with VR communities like VR Chat, and wonder how this will be any different, ambr has one clear advantage when it comes to customizing your appearance. Although it's easy to clone avatars you find within VR Chat, if you want to import an avatar of your own creation, for example, one you made in VRoid Studio, it's quite a complicated process, especially for those inexperienced with Unity, Blender, etc. In ambr, however, you can link directly with your VRoid Hub account and easily import your models, allowing you more freedom to customize your appearance to your liking.

In addition to the supported devices Oculus Go, Oculus Rift (Rift S) and HTC VIVE, ambr plans to expand support for other major VR devices.

ambr launches its open access Beta on May 25th, 2020, and is available to access free of charge.

To find out more, visit ambr here.

By - Ben K.