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Facebook Shows Us The Future of Social VR

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Oculus introduced Avatars and social Rooms with friends.

During Oculus’ developer conference keynote, Mark Zuckerberg introduced us to Facebook’s vision of “building great software experiences” that are social with Oculus.

A stage that was surprisingly absent of Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey, Zuckerberg demonstrated new social experiences that let you create avatars of yourself and hang out with friends in social VR environments.

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In a live demo with the Oculus Rift and Touch motion controllers, Zuckerberg showed off his new fresh avatar that he joked looked like an animated depiction of Justin Timberlake. Also present in the same virtual space were two friends, whose social interaction demonstrate the progress Oculus has made with avatar design.

Oculus Avatars

They looked realistic without being uncanny, allowing for believable movement that made the social interaction shown on stage feel natural. Your arms and body moved freely, all being tracked positionally by your head and hands. Lip motion created strong visual indicators when someone was talking, all trigged by your voice. And most surprisingly, your avatar could display emotions like smiling, confusion, and shock, using the Touch controllers as an input device to select from a range of social cues.

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Also demonstrated in VR was the ability to change the environment to real world scenes using 360° photos or videos. Zuckerberg showed off playing games with friends like chess or cards, even a sword fight with pre-made or DIY-drawn objects. You could even pull in video clips and stretch a TV screen window to watch together.

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At one point during the demonstration, Zuckerberg took a phone call on Facebook Messenger while in VR from his wife Priscilla Chan. Of course this all lead to busting out a selfie stick, snapping a virtual selfie, and sharing the photo on his Facebook timeline.

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Facebook knows how powerful social VR can be, especially when these moments can also be shared, eventually allowing you to share 360° photos and videos from VR to the social platform.

Oculus Parties and Rooms

Additionally on stage, Lauren Vegter, Oculus Product Manager Platform, announced Oculus Parties, which lets you start a voice call with up to seven other people from anywhere in VR.

And if you want to have a more private setting for your virtual group discussions, you can meetup in Oculus Rooms, where you are instantly transported to an environment to hang out, watch movies, or launch into a new game. Both Parties and Rooms will be available for Gear VR in the coming weeks, with a Rift update coming next year.

“This is the first time the technology has made this level of social presence possible,” said Vegter.

Oculus has been teasing us with social VR experiences for awhile now, giving us a glimpse of early work in social VR back in April. Their latest explorations have come a long way since VR selfie sticks and photo spheres, but now its time t0 figure out how to get more consumers in headsets and make all this hardware more accessible — so we can all say with confidence, VR is better with friends.

About the Scout

Jonathan Nafarrete

Jonathan Nafarrete is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of VRScout.

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