A new “Big Rooms” update to desktop sharing app Bigscreen will allow a host to share their computer screen with dozens of people in VR.
Since it launched in March 2016, Bigscreen offered rooms where up to four people could share their desktops with each other. Some major updates shipped since then, including high quality video streaming and a giant theater screen so people could enjoy better movies and TV shows together. The “Big Rooms” update, though, represents a major expansion for the software. Now hosts can have a movie night with a much larger group of people or stream a game to an intimate but still relatively sizable audience. Instead of everyone seeing everyone else’s screen, in these larger rooms only the host shares their screen. The smaller rooms where everyone shares are still there as well.
Founder Darshan Shankar says he originally built Bigscreen with encrypted peer-to-peer functionality, so content and voice chat shared inside the software is more private and doesn’t touch Bigscreen’s servers. This feature is still included with the larger rooms. Apps like Hulu on Gear VR allow people wearing the headsets to watch a TV show together, but each person needs to have a paid Hulu account to make that work. Facebook’s Oculus included a “Virtual Living Room” in its licensing terms so half a dozen people could watch a movie together that one of them purchased. Bigscreen bypasses each of these limitations, effectively collapsing space to bring faraway friends close together in VR. Bigscreen is no different from having multiple computers in the same room together.
There are other apps like Virtual Desktop and more recently Oculus’ own Dash that allow people to operate their desktop in VR. Bigscreen stands alone, however, in offering a compelling social experience where you can share anything on your computer’s screen. We’ve used Bigscreen to play games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds so we could have the kind of social experience you get packing several computers into the same room at a LAN party, and Bigscreen is working with movie studios to host film screenings in VR.
That last part is interesting because as VR grows alongside Bigscreen’s user base and feature set it could raise some interesting questions regarding copyright infringement, privacy and individual freedom in VR.
The “Big Rooms” update is available to some users today and rolling out widely in the coming days. According to a post by Shankar, the number of friends you can invite to the room is dependent on your upload bandwidth.