When Facebook originally bought out Oculus Rift many were somewhat baffled about the rationale of the decision. To be sure, Facebook indicated that they felt VR (and AR) were the future of social media, but for us non-visionaries it has never been entirely clear how the two would meet.
Now Facebook has finally showcased their vision of VR and social media. At least, they’ve shown what the first generation of that technological marriage will look like.
This new product is simply called “Spaces” and comes in the form of a VR app for the Oculus Rift.
Right off the bat we have to point out that Spaces requires the Oculus Touch, which is a £99 peripheral set which, while part of some recent bundles, does not come with the Rift as standard. Most people who currently own an Oculus Rift probably don’t have the Touch yet, but maybe Facebook is hoping this app will sell users on getting the full package.
Spaces itself essentially recreates the feeling of sharing physical spaces with other people. Each person is represented by an avatar and there are a whole bunch of activities that users can do together apart from simply starting at each other and having a chat.
Me, Myself and I
Spaces appears to have a very robust avatar creator that easily helps you craft a digital body that resembles you in life or at least a cartoony idealized version of you. You can use your own facebook photos as a reference and there’s a digital mirror to ensure that you feel comfortable in your new digital skin.
All the Toys
The avatars reflect facial expressions, simulated eye contact and some pretty convincing motion tracking judging by the promo footage. But what can you and your pals actually do while in VR?
There are some creative tools that are reminiscent of apps like Tilt Brush, where you can make 3D drawings or sculpts using the move peripheral. Obviously this means you can do this in collaboration with others who are in VR with you.
You can also watch 360-degree videos or look at spherical photos together.
Since so few people actually own the expensive VR gear the app requires, Facebook as designed it in such a way that people can also access these sessions from a phone. It’s possible to invite people as spectators of sorts, giving them a 2D window into your VR shenanigans.
A New Beginning
According to Facebook this is only the beginning and the software is clearly marked as a Beta test. Certainly they’ll be adding more into the mix as time goes by, but you can access the Beta through the Oculus store here.
Facebook is far from the first company to try something like this. We’ve already seen products like VRchat and AltSpace, but the sheer number of Facebook users and the obvious polish of Spaces may just be enough to make it the mainstream standard for this class of software.