Facebook announced the beta launch of Facebook Spaces, a new app that allows users to connect with friends and colleagues in an interactive virtual reality environment. Facebook Spaces is available for Oculus Rift and Touch at the Oculus Store.
The app provides a way for social media users to hang out as they might otherwise in person even bridging great distances noted Rachel Franklin who is head of social virtual reality at Facebook, the technology now is open to anyone with an Oculus Rift.
An avatar represents each user in Facebook Spaces. Its appearance is based on the user’s photo, but can be further modified with choices of eye color, hairstyle and facial features that best fit the person’s identity. After creating a virtual persona, users can use Messenger to connect with friends, interact in 360-degree spaces, and utilize the app’s selfie stick to further manipulate photos in the VR environment.
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Facebook bought Oculus VR just over three years ago for a reported US$2 billion. The deal included $400 million in cash, along with 23.1 million in Facebook shares. Another $300 million would sweeten the deal if and when certain milestones were hit. Facebook hinted at how it might socialize virtual reality in a demo at last year’s F8 developer conference. Two employees engaged in a virtual space, even though the pair actually were 30 miles apart.
Facebook Spaces isn’t exactly ready for the mainstream yet:
It will cost about $1,000 for the hardware, plus the needed computer to run it, so this is still very much a beta and experimental technology.Also there isn’t a big enough VR install base particularly on the Oculus Rift for multiplayer or social applications to make sense on its own. There are several issues that need to be addressed critcally before Facebook Spaces can offer a true VR experience, which is why software has been released in beta form but the biggest hurdle will be getting people to use it.