Social VR is now a reality for Facebook proper and as a result it raises a few questions concerning the corporation’s pre-existing properties.
In 2014 Facebook purchased Oculus, making it a matter of time before the acquisition’s virtual reality hardware would be incorporated into Facebook’s wider mission of “connecting the world.”
A Facebook social VR experience was teased by Facebook a year ago at 2016’s F8 developer conference. The demonstration showed Nintendo Mii-esque avatars that bring a user’s unique physicality into a shared VR space. The F8 demo was well received and then, at the very next F8 conference, Facebook’s Michael Booth once again took the stage to announce a publicly available beta-version of this software called Spaces that Oculus Rift owners could download that very day.
In between these two conferences, Facebook released a smattering of other Social VR applications within the Oculus brand. Oculus Rooms also came out last year and the roaring presence of Spaces leads one to question what the future might hold for that experience.
UploadVR had the chance to interview Booth who explained what the release of the Spaces beta means for Oculus Rooms.
Booth clarified that the Spaces and Rooms teams are separate entities at Facebook. Booth encourages users to think of both of these apps as “experiments,” more than finished products that would demand the entirety of Facebook’s development resources.
“At a minimum these are two parallel experiences and we’ll see where those go. But honestly, they’re like apples and oranges,” Booth said.
One of the key differentiators between these two programs is that Rooms is on the Samsung Gear VR and Spaces is on the Oculus Rift and Touch. According to Booth, “they [the Rooms team] are exploring a different problem and I think we’re going in different directions.”
When asked directly whether or not Spaces will be replacing Rooms, Booth responded with a flat “no.”
On the Spaces front, we asked Booth whether or not the new app will be monetized as it progresses out of this free beta. Booth stated that Facebook wants to handle that in a “friendly” manner:
“One of the things I really, really enjoyed about Facebook, and one of the things that got me to work for them, is that the mandate was ‘figure out social VR, make it fun and engaging and we’ll figure out how to monetize things in a friendly way later.’
I come from the game’s industry. I know there’s good ways and bad ways to monetize things, from the good ways to monetize there’s all sorts of ways that that could be done. [We don’t want] obnoxious paywalls.”
Facebook Spaces is available now on Oculus Home. Rooms can be downloaded via the Oculus app on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone.