Facebook Oculus 'Horizon': Opening up to ‘Invite-Only’ Beta Explorers28.08.2020, 15:48
Perhaps one of the better things about the very existence of Facebook is its passion and belief in VR technology. Oculus is this laboratory for Facebook, and with 'Horizon' you can glimpse their long-term intention to try and present a social platform to complement or build new relationships and communities, rather than being some gimmicky add-on to the existing Facebook experience.
Many believe VR will start really getting interesting when better headsets arrive, even AR-orientated ones, allowing our living rooms to bring us our friends and family seamlessly, like picking up a smartphone.
Until we reach that stage, however, we must keep experimenting with immersive VR, and improve that side of things. There is much that will pave the way for the future, when VR goes - truly - mainstream. Due to their imaginative appeal, games and ‘social VR’ environments are the means to that end, for now.
Facebook Horizon is the project and platform through which Facebook is emphasising ‘meaningful connections’ which will attempt to provide the next-gen ‘social VR’ experience. Beyond chatting in private or public areas, this will include shared interaction, gaming, building...well, whatever else you want to make. Apparently, there has been much building by early adopters of the platform, and building things socially. For now, up to 8 people can share a space.
As with other social or former VR worlds, Facebook have realised that building and creating is one of the main activities that people like to do. You can truly walk around your own creations and environments. The tools and interface will determine whether all this will be a fun or frustrating experience, but we don't have this information right now. It will surely evolve and improve. Meanwhile, mini-games are sure to provide a way to break the virtual ice for meet-ups and catch-ups, or executive 'exercises'.
However, all this needs to be safe and private, and it seems the Horizon team have spent some time implementing features to prevent ‘incidents’ occurring in-world, or bad actors spoiling the Party. There’s a ‘Code of Conduct’ every user must follow along with a ‘Safe Zone’ you can activate at any time. This quick step then provides options to mute, block or report ‘people or content’ you’ve encountered.
With COVID-19 pushing the art of online communication and interaction via video chat further, platforms like Horizon might start to offer something more expressive and fun, when it arrives fully.
Check out the full blog post at Oculus to find out more. For now, only those invited so far will be able to start getting involved, but you can join a waitlist.
Breaking down the Barrier
Will this be enough to revolutionise VR and break down that barrier towards mainstream virtual adoption? It's not likely, but it's another good step. VR remains an abstract exercise requiring the act of rigging oneself up to enter a realm of abstract realms. It requires some mental effort for the majority of people, and right now, is frequently met with frustration and waiting, too much choice, and internet speed or headsets which do not yet present seamless access.
But, this will start to change, and ‘the virtual’ may slowly achieve something more satisfying or addictive, and offer more control over our real lives. It might be something office or work related that will kick things off. It might be that AR will provide the trigger to send people to this next level of immersion.
For now, Facebook Horizon will soon offer the chance to anyone willing to make the leap, to start feeling at home and comfortable with the sort of mechanics we’ll be using once this new, social frontier gets going.
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