A couple weeks ago Oculus casually released their Oculus Social Alpha app, dipping a toe into the world of social virtual reality and showing what we may expect in the future from the Facebook owned company.
Oculus Social Alpha is a pretty simple experience with users first selecting their look from a selection of 27 different avatars, ranging from a scary clown face to a cowboy with an oversized hat. The user is then given a menu of eight different rooms that can be joined, four for watching Twitch streams and four for watching Vimeo videos.
Once a room is selected, the user is transported to a virtual home theater and depending how busy the room is, immediately greeted by four other floating avatars that acknowledge your entrance. Aside from a virtual home theater environment that the app launched with, this month Oculus updated some of the rooms to now look like you landed on the moon or were shrunken down to the size of an ant.
Although the social setting of the room revolves around watching a Twitch stream or Vimeo video, which has great picture quality by the way, many users end up muting the video playback volume and spend the whole time chatting with others. Aside from the welcome sight of Minecraft like avatar heads, the majority of the avatars are often unsettling as a voice emanates from the mouth and the avatar eyes stare directly at you.
As we have seen Oculus open up the Social Alpha app worldwide, VRScout has been popping into rooms regularly and just chatting with the community. For the most part, conversations revolve around user excitement for the future of virtual reality, which comes as no surprise from an early-adopter group like this. Many others expressed surprise for how polished the experience looked and more often than not, there were a couple users who giggled the whole time, probably having hit a few bowls before loading up the app.
The conversations were positive and welcoming. Some of the more fun discussions revolved around potential improvements or additions to the social experience. Some suggestions included everything from virtual versions of Texas Holdem, Karaoke, speed dating, trivia nights, and just being able to watch other content like Netflix (Netflix came up regularly).
So what do early-adopting Oculus Social Alpha users look like?
Over the past two weeks VRScout surveyed 30 users during different times of the day and in both Twitch and Vimeo rooms. The breakdown looked like this.
Device ownership split between the Note 4 and the Galaxy S6 came as no surprise. The pretty even split between versions also matches up to the next illustration of Gear VR ownership length, where the majority of Note 4 owners purchased the Gear VR went it was initially launched almost a year ago.
When it came to user locations, the majority was based in the United States. The diversity in the rest of the countries did make it feel more global, with single users from the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, Qatar, Australia, and Germany being represented in the survey.
What a user’s favorite app on Gear VR was always a fun topic of discussion. 33% of the users surveyed said their favorite app was the Oculus Social Alpha, but keep in mind they were also being surveyed in the app so take it for what it is. Netflix and Oculus Video were also crowd favorites, with a few users mentioning that they had watched feature length movies in Gear VR multiple times.
Saving the most surprising or maybe not surprising chart for last, we came across only one female user over the two weeks.
Although we would have liked to survey more users, for the most part there were only a few users active in the app at a time. With the new Samsung Gear VR to hit store shelves in a week with a lower price of $99, we can expect the rooms to get a lot busier. Hopefully some new features will be added to the app as well, keeping the Oculus Social Alpha app a community favorite for months to come.