Facebook expands virtual reality Spaces app with new features
Facebook Inc. Wednesday announced various new features for Spaces, its virtual reality hangout app. The new features, announced at the company’s Oculus Connect conference, include additional creative tools, live video streaming and more.
Spaces, which Facebook launched in April at its F8 developer conference, is a social app that allows friends to create 3D virtual avatars of themselves, “hang out” together in VR and teleport to new destinations around the world. With virtual pop-up screens, friends can share photos and videos, as well as create various 3D doodles and take selfies all within Spaces.
Spaces is also the app that Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg used to teleport himself to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico this week with the intention of “raising awareness.” Unfortunately for the company, the live stream did not go down well with many users, with some calling Zuckerberg a “heartless billionaire” and accusing him of “exploiting disaster.” Zuckerberg subsequently apologized.
The adoption of VR hasn’t happened as fast as many expected. Facebook acquired Oculus for $3 billion back in 2014, and while Zuckerberg is a huge proponent of VR and its future, others like Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook feels augmented reality and not VR is the future.
With Zuckerberg’s ambitious goal of “a billion people in virtual reality,” Facebook is also looking at ways to extend VR experiences into the non-VR world with the introduction of 3D posts.
Here’s a look at the new features that users will be able to enjoy in Facebook Spaces, as well as the new Oculus Venues app due out next year:
In an attempt to provide more interactive VR experiences, Spaces has expanded its drawing features. Users will also now be able to play some low-key games, like cards and dice, with friends in Spaces.
Starting next year, Facebook also wants developers to create more content for Spaces, such as simple games or tabletop versions of their immersive VR games.
In the coming weeks, users in Spaces will be able to create “Kits” (pictured above), which comprise of virtual objects, including toys, games, 3D collages, costume props and more. These Kits can then be shared with friends or saved in your space to access at a later time.
Users will now be able to create art, or what Facebook refers to as Quillustrations, in their virtual space with Quill, a VR painting tool that was used to create the VR film “Dear Angelica.”
Facebook decided to shut down Oculus Story Studio earlier this year, but retained Quill, its VR art program.
Below is a short story created by Facebook’s resident artist, Goro Fujita:
Linking virtual and nonvirtual worlds
Facebook 3D Posts
The launch of new 3D Posts will allow users to take the 3D objects and drawings created in VR environments in Spaces and post them to their news feed on Facebook. Friends will be able to interact with these 3D objects in the news feed directly from their mobile phone or desktop. They will be able to drag and move the object around, all without the need for a VR headset.
The reverse is also possible, with users able to take 3D objects from their news feed into Spaces.
Live 360° Video
Facebook is also introducing the ability to stream 360-degree videos directly in Spaces. The feature, rolling out later this year, will provide users with access to Facebook Live 360°, which they can watch with their friends in Spaces.
While the new feature won’t allow users to live stream 360-degree videos to friends outside of Spaces, users do have access to the 2D video live streaming tool announced in July. The tool allows users to stream to Facebook Live and give people a view into their VR environment.
The company also announced a new app called “Venues,” which it plans to introduce next year. The app will allow users to watch various events, including live concerts, sports and premieres of new movies and TV shows with up to 1,000 people around the globe.
There are already various third-party Oculus apps that offer similar features, including FoxVR, LiveLike and NextVR. Another alternative is AltspaceVR Inc., acquired by Microsoft Corp. earlier this month, whose FrontRow technology offers limitless capacity for live virtual concert events.
Despite the competition, the Venues app will have the advantage of being produced by Oculus.
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