Facebook announced a new social virtual reality app for its Oculus Rift headset today at F8, the company's annual conference for software developers. If you have the Oculus Touch controllers, you can use them to bring your hands into Spaces. With Facebook Spaces, you can get an avatar that looks like you by choosing one of your Facebook photos and getting various VR appearance options. It appears Facebook Spaces will also include games, which is probably a far more appealing feature.
"Spending time with friends and family creates many of our most meaningful memories", wrote Facebook's head of VR, Rachel Franklin, "but it's impossible to always be physically near the people we care about". This app will let you meet your friends in a virtual space, or as this video shows, even allow you to show off your incredibly tiny apartment in VR.
Once in a shared space, users can access a curated selection of 360-degree photos and videos to virtually "travel" to these locations. Currently, there are between 30-50 Facebook employees working on Social VR at Facebook, but with augmented reality and virtual reality growing central to FB's core product these teams are sure to grow massive as more people buy headsets. Once you've got your VR space loaded up, it's a quick jaunt through a few menus to invite some friends. For example, if you place a virtual object on a table, it will appear as though it's sitting on the table from any angle at which you look at it, including realistic occlusion from objects around it. What's key about this is that Facebook - despite owning a popular VR hardware platform - wants to be a Google in the VR space not an Apple. But what is Facebook Spaces and how do you use it? You can draw with a virtual marker tool and move your drawings around. Since the app is limited to people who have a Rift, Facebook allows friends to join these VR hangouts remotely via a Messenger call, which actually works a bit better than you might think. "In the future, it will continue to transform the way people around the world stay connected with their communities and those closest to them", she added. Now, with the addition of virtual experiences, Facebook is going to have to tackle this problem on a platform that is even more visceral.