Someday soon you might look down at your phone and answer a video call from what could easily be mistaken for a sentient cartoon character. That’s not a joke — the first time you answer a phone call from a Sim might not be far off. It won’t be a cartoon character though. It’ll be someone inside an Oculus Rift calling the real world using Facebook Messenger.
And Rachel Rubin Franklin will probably be the person responsible for making this happen.
Franklin was a vice president and executive producer in charge of The Sims 4 at Electronic Arts. She’s now leading Facebook’s efforts as the new Head of Social VR, a post by Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer revealed. Franklin had been a vice president at EA since 2011, and headed up work on the The Sims 4. She joins Mike Booth and Lucy Bradshaw, who shared the stage virtually with Mark Zuckerberg during the impressive social VR demo last week. Schroepfer wrote:
It is a blast to fuse the experience of people who have developed many successful immersive online worlds with engineers who have decades of collective experience building Facebook. As we demonstrated, we have ambitious goals and have lots to do, so if you are a game developer, designer, or artist … come join us!
Facebook’s social demo showed incredible promise, enabling people wearing Oculus Rifts and using Touch controllers to play a game of cards exactly like they would in the real world. Except they weren’t in the same place, instead using virtual reality to connect from a distance. During the same demo Priscilla Chan saw a cartoon, Sim-like avatar on her phone when her husband, Zuckerberg, placed a video call from inside VR.
With Franklin’s experience working on The Sims and Schroepfer’s clear call for developers, it’s looking like Facebook’s social VR efforts are starting to seriously ramp up. When combined with the eventual standalone VR unit Facebook intends to develop, social VR holds enormous promise in enabling us to connect with family and friends in new and interesting ways.