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Social networks and virtual reality seem like two strange things to be together; one is about connecting you to the world, while the other appears to do the opposite. But CEO Mark Zuckerberg envisioned a world where VR would be a place for communication, not isolation. And, almost three years after the launch of Facebook Oculus, that vision has become much closer to reality. On 18th April, during the F8 event Facebook talked about many things but the mixed reality was among the most interesting things announced at the event. The social media networking giant announced its Facebook Spaces VR app, which has virtual-reality hangout spaces much like Oculus Rooms announced last year. “We want Facebook Spaces to be a comfortable place for everyone. You have control of your experience, including the ability to pause at any time. Pausing moves you into a quiet space where you can take a break away from other people and activities. You can also choose to mute your friends or remove them from your space. Facebook Spaces is all about connecting with friends and family that you know and trust, and we’re committed to making VR a positive place for all,” Rachel Franklin, Facebook’s head of social VR, said in a blog post.
Facebook Spaces is currently available in beta version which can be downloaded from Oculus store. The app requires a full Oculus Touch VR setup—meaning, the Oculus Rift headset and its trackable Touch controllers. Talking about the features, the app’s full potential revolves around one of its simplest tools: the pencil. Use a pencil to draw whatever you want in mid-air. Much like other VR art programs, the default pencil generates basic lines. Draw a model of a house, and then pass it across your VR table for others to look at and review. Make a hat or a mask, then put it on your face—or be mischievous and slap it onto your friend’s. Everything you draw with the pencil tool can attach to other objects, to other people, or to photos loaded and shared in the Spaces room.
#Fun time with FB friends
The menu system includes a friends tab, and when this loads, any of the FB friends currently tooling around in Facebook Spaces will appear at the top. Below them are any of the friends who currently appear as active in Facebook Messenger, either on its mobile app or the basic Facebook website. But say, one wants to interact with non-VR friends then the only way for the two of them to interact is the video calling. This way there will be no eavesdropping. But yes, your friends need to have VR in order to have some fun time with you on FB Spaces. The good part about the messenger connected video calls is that except you, none of your VR friends will be able to hear what the non-VR friend is saying. While users can see each other in form of avatars, which are customizable, they can import videos from their own feed and even try mixed-reality experiences by video-calling people using messenger app’s video chat feature.
#The interesting features
All users in VR lobbies have access to a few Facebook-specific tools. Users also have the option to grab a selfie stick and pose with other VR participants for a photo, which can then instantly be shared with Facebook friends. One can even enjoy 360-degree videos with friends while hanging out with their avatars. Any images that are to be shared in Facebook Spaces, 360-degree or otherwise, have to be pulled from Facebook’s profile itself. But since there is no virtual keyboard, it’s currently impossible to search Facebook’s vast public content archives for specific content like videos or posts. What’s more, Spaces also infers what your eyes are looking at, creating what appears to be eye contact, which is integral to face-to-face communications.
Of course, Facebook Spaces isn’t the only social VR app out there. Oculus even has its own version called Oculus Rooms. The difference between the two is that Oculus’ version is made just for Oculus hardware and is made to drive that particular platform. Facebook Spaces, on the other hand, is supposed to be much more widespread. That’s why even though it’s an Oculus exclusive right now; Facebook wants it to be on all VR hardware.