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.]
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
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.
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.