Social Virtual Reality
Last week was an important week for Facebook as they hosted their annual F8 developers conference. The conference brought lots of people together including content creators, business partners and coders, all coming to see and hear about Facebook’s new initiatives.
Virtual reality was the main topic at the event, although several other interesting topics received a good amount of time as well.
Facebook made it clear that they want to “connect the world”. That exact phrase was mentioned several times throughout the conference. It also helps give insight into how Facebook thinks virtual reality can be social.
You’re probably wondering – what is Social VR?
Social VR is essentially a virtual reality experience that multiple people share together in any virtual world they’d like. Social VR is different than the normal VR experience that’s created for one person at a time. Basically, Social VR is the ability for people to interact with each other in virtual reality which provides a much more realistic and immersive environment than that of a game bot for example. It’s widely thought that Social VR could end up helping to bring more people to virtual reality who otherwise may not have had interest in more of a gaming type experience.
Linc Gasking, the CEO of 8i, a VR tech development company, said, “It’s clear that the holy grail for VR and AR is people. It’s real humans that are going to drive these social interfaces that will connect us in ways we haven’t yet imagined. Soon you’ll not only be able to take a virtual selfie with your friend, but imagine taking a selfie with your friend and Steph Curry after watching a Warriors game in VR.”
Social VR, the term, was created before the F8 conference, but has begin to become more widely adopted after Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Mike Schroepfer, wore an Oculus Rift on state and talked about a new virtual reality tool that can be utilized in different virtual environments.
Schroepfer “teleported” to London to visit with an associate of his who was also wearing a VR headset, but was actually at Facebook’s Menlo Park, California headquarters. That new tool was essentially a virtual selfie stick. Then Schroepfer’s virtual avatar stood next to another avatar and the two of them took a photo together utilizing their virtual reality selfie stick. Then, he was able to put the photo into what’s essentially a virtual mailbox which was uploaded directly to Facebook’s website.
The demo was amazing and caused a lot of frenzy on Twitter. The demo ended up creating a discussion about how crucial social multi-user shared experiences are going to be for the virtual reality industry.
Brendan Iribe, Oculus’s CEO, said, “When you feel you’re actually present, when your brain is completely convinced, something fundamentally changes. If you can see somebody else and look at them and you’re not looking into a screen, you get goosebumps and realize how big this can be and how big of an impact it’ll have.”
Kurt Wagner, from the site ReCode, said, “Facebook has two teams building social VR tools, and it has created VR scenes with as many as five real people interacting together at once. It hasn’t released these features publicly, but it’s showing them off to better convey how it sees virtual reality evolving.”
Anthony Blatt, the co founder of Wevr – a VR production company, said, “[VR] is inherently a social platform because it is a digital communication system at its core. The Internet has taught us that computers are as much about communication as they are about computation.”
A company in D.C. called Agora VR is creating a VR app that enables virtual meetings in realtime. This app could end up being utilized by large companies as well as educators among many other applications.
Agora VR isn’t the only company to try to crate Social VR though. Altspace is also a company working on Social VR. They’re based in Redwood, California and they recently obtained $10 million in funding from Silicon Valley investors.