After watching the Ready Player One film in theaters I’m more convinced than ever that the secret to VR’s success is going to be establishing a go-to social metaverse for people to easily and quickly meet up. Scattering features across apps gets the job done for now, but eventually a default destination, like a global chatroom for VR, is going to emerge. I don’t think Oculus Rooms (at least not in its current form) is going to be that app, but today’s Oculus Go release is certainly a move in the right direction.
With Oculus Go the Rooms app is now a dedicated social hangout space — which came as a bit of a shock due to how it’s felt mostly abandoned ever since the debut of Facebook Spaces. Each user has their own duplicate of the same studio loft where they can pick the floor, the wall material, the time of day, the outside scenery, and even the photos hanging on the wall. In my room I’ve got pictures of my wife, son, and pembroke welsh corgi, Luna, to make it feel as welcoming as possible.
You can see my room as I tweak and customize it in the video above, as well as a glimpse of my avatar as well, that I’ve tried to make look as much like me as possible.
Rooms doesn’t stop there though. Now, you have a large wallspace that acts like a digital entertainment center. Users can cast videos onto the wall, like movies (including 3D films) or photos. You can also launch 360 videos from this spot as well, which initiates one of the coolest things I’ve seen in VR in quite some time.
In the video above you can see it in action. If someone is watching a 360 video in a room on Oculus Go, it’s represented by a large orb where you can see a preview of the video. If you click on it then you go inside the video and are surrounded in full 360. You can enter and exit a video experience at will this way which really does a great job of selling the spectacle and immersion of 360 videos.
It’s just a shame you can’t use this space to pull things from your Go’s internal storage or your network’s media server — both of which you can do in your own Oculus Video theater. But I guess that’s what Bigscreen is for.
This media hub can play music as well, which is great to set up if you and your friends are going to head over to the game table. Right now there are basic games like Pairs, which lets you flip over cards as you search for matching pairs, and a few others. Eventually they’ll introduce Boggle and other official Hasbro games as part of a partnership.
Back in the living room media hub area you can also queue up multiplayer VR games for people to join in as well, such as Anshar Online, Dead & Buried, and others. It’s a small feature, but helps make the entire VR experience from front to back feel interconnected as one giant universe (like Ready Player One) instead of an amalgamation of disconnected apps and games you’re picking from a flat, 2D menu.
You can read more about what we think of the Oculus Go as a headset here, but I’ll just add that as solid as the headset is, I really wish more time and investment had been into social VR experiences like
This is the secret sauce for what makes VR so special.