At the annual F8 developer conference, Facebook released Facebook Spaces, a new virtual reality social network for the Oculus Rift.
When Facebook acquired Oculus three years ago, the synergy between social networks and virtual reality was not immediately seen. Facebook Spaces, however, shows the vision that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has for the combination.
Facebook Spaces: What It Offers
Upon logging in to Facebook Spaces through the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, users will be given the option to create custom avatars based on the pictures that they have uploaded to their Facebook profiles.
Avatars can be created from scratch or through making adjustments to individual features such as hair and eyes. There is also the option to allow Facebook Spaces to create the avatar of users by converting a Facebook profile picture into a cartoon version.
After finalizing their avatar, users can then hang out with the avatars of up to three of their friends within the virtual reality environment created by Facebook Spaces.
There are different gestures available to users within Facebook Spaces. Pointing both thumbsticks of the Oculus Touch upward will translate into a laugh, pointing them outward will translate into a smile, and turning them outward will translate into an avatar who looks confused.
Using Facebook Spaces feels real, primarily because the combination of the Oculus Rift and the Oculus Touch functions as a motion capture studio. Users will be portrayed in the virtual reality environment with the body language that they do in real life. Facebook Spaces also estimates where the user is looking, which allows it to simulate eye contact between users and mimic mouth movement depending on what users are saying.
While in Facebook Spaces, users can share 360-degree pictures and videos, with the content enveloping the environment. Other things that users can do with their friends include taking selfies, drawing pictures using virtual pens, and launching virtual fist bumps.
Users can even hang out with their friends who do not have access to an Oculus Rift, as they can join Facebook Spaces through a Messenger video call.
Facebook Spaces might also feel limited, though, with only four users present at any given time around a table and a surrounding screen. However, that is intentional, according to Facebook Head of Social VR Rachel Franklin, who says that the priority with the virtual social network is to promote interaction among users and their friends.
Facebook Spaces: The Future Of Virtual Reality?
Facebook Spaces is currently in beta but can already be downloaded for free through the Oculus Store. The app still has some shortcomings, but Facebook will likely improve it further after receiving feedback from early users.
Social networks encourage communication with friends, while virtual reality has mostly enveloped users within a world on their own. Facebook Spaces, however, is looking to transform virtual reality worlds into environments where users will be able to connect with others.
Virtual reality has so far been mostly used for gaming. Facebook Spaces, however, is looking to expand the capabilities of the technology, which should be good for virtual reality in the long run.