Oculus demos augmented social virtual reality with facial expressions

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Today on stage at Oculus’ Connect conference, Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated a new social VR experience that overlays VR avatars of friends who are elsewhere on top of your vision so you can hang out together

Inside this social VR experience you can take real world scenes in the form of 360 photos, and visit them with your friends who appear as overlaid avatars in the scene. There, you can play games like chess or cards, sword fight with pre-made or DIY-drawn swords, or watch a giant TV screen together. You can even take a phone call inside Facebook Messenger, or take a VR selfie and instantly share it to Facebook.

You can express your emotions to friends by inputting gestural commands into the Oculus Touch controllers, and through recognition of when you’re talking. [Correction: Oculus says these emotions weren’t based on facial tracking as we originally published, but instead on Oculus Touch controller inputs.]

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Oculus’ social VR expereince lets you see friends with facial tracking overlaid atop a 360 photo scene. You can even play board games and cards with friends.

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Look at yourself in social VR with this mirror feature

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Visit distant places like the bottom of the sea with friends in VR

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Take a Facebook Messenger video call in VR

Zuckerberg takes a Messenger video call in VR with his wife

Zuckerberg takes a Messenger video call in VR with his wife

The experience demoed today shows the potential for human connection in VR powered by Facebook and Oculus. While competing VR platforms might have the same games as Oculus, they likely won’t get the preferred access to Facebook’s social graph and social VR features. That could become an important differentiator in a crowded market for headsets.

Social could also attract developers to the Oculus platform. Games are more fun with friends, and social networks also provide sharing opportunities that can drive virality and adoption. If you can play with your Facebook

Zuckerberg teased the announcement last night with a photo of him and Facebook’s product manager for social VR Michael Booth both wearing headsets together (seen below).

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Before the demo, Zuckerberg took the stage to discuss VR’s progress. He says the first step to the VR revolution is “getting the basic hardware out there” which Oculus, HTC, and others are doing. He admitted the Rift rolled out with “a little bit of a slow start” but its going well now. Next will be getting great software experiences built for that hardware. Zuckerberg’s 10 to 15-year goal is getting VR and AR into a set of traditional eye glasses, not a bulky headset.

Booth was who demoed the VR selfie stick, explorable 360 photo spheres, and virtual mailbox for sharing at Facebook’s F8 conference last April.

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Zuckerberg has been pointing to the social networking potential of VR since Facebook acquired Oculus, saying “This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.”

While VR is largely thought of as a gaming platform, it could help Facebook accomplish its mission by bringing you closer with friends and family far away.

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