Facebook Spaces has a long way to go –but it shows promise in developing compelling social experiences within virtual reality.
What is “Facebook Spaces“?
Facebook Spaces is the beta version of a new “social-oriented” virtual reality experience designed for Facebookers. The experience is something reminiscent of Hulu VR, and we can already see fans of Facebook Live exploiting this new feature (especially since you don’t have to buy a VR headset).
What is Facebook’s strategy?
“There’s plenty more to do [so that users] feel like ‘Hey, I relate to this and I relate to myself.’ Of course I notice stuff, like the hair. We had some ladies’ hair and I literally freaked out: ‘This is terrible! Whoever made this, we can’t ship with this!’ Hair is super hard. And I’m always like, okay, we have much more to do, but this hair was completely unacceptable. It was like big, thick slabs. You’d swing your beautiful hair and it would—it was not good. So [I think we learn] from little things like that…’
- Social VR doesn’t necessarily require virtual exploration of a virtual environment. Spaces puts the emphasis on what they are doing together, not where they are doing it within the virtual space.
- Social VR isn’t only about doing, it’s also about sharing. Few other social VR apps today make it easy to share media from your real life with friends in VR.
- Social VR isn’t only about VR. Spaces not only lets users connect with friends who don’t have VR equipment, but it also lets those non-VR people literally see into the virtual world through their smartphone, opening the door to a massively larger group of people who can participate in social VR [through Messenger].
Our Takeaway on the Future of Social VR
As USA Today points out, the requirements for a social VR experience include “Oculus Rift headgear, Rift wireless Touch hand controllers, and [a] pricey PC to make it all work”. In fact, the estimated total price for basic VR tech hovers somewhere around the $2000 price point. Still, although many people don’t own VR technology as of yet, social VR will no doubt play a key role in the future of social media networking and telecommunication in years to come. Furthermore, with the rise in average PC processing power and advent of the PS4 VR headset (retailing at a surprisingly reasonable $400) late last year, this Christmas stands to inspire a new wave of early adopters.
Considering Facebook is considered a keystone network, it makes sense that their company is dedicated to capitalizing on this market early. That being said, they may have done themselves more harm than good with their premature beta launch –purchasers of exclusive (and expensive) items rarely take “unfinished” to be a strong initial product impression.