Facebook, the world’s largest social media website, is pushing hard to make virtual reality a revolution in today’s technology.
During the second day of the company’s F8 conference, the company introduced Social VR, an upcoming feature that will allow Facebook users to interact with each other using virtual reality.
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“Social VR done right will let us define our tribe… not based on proximity, but by personal choice,” said Yaser Sheikh, who is among the company researchers for its Oculus program.
“It will change how we live in this world and with each other,” he added during the conference in San Francisco.
Sheikh said that he was inspired by the idea when he used some of his work for the birth of his daughter. He looked across and saw his older son carrying a baby and capturing a smile.
He said he wants his other relatives, who live in remote places, to experience the same thing with the help of virtual reality, particularly Facebook’s Social VR.
Also, Sheikh mentioned that in Social VR, “the technology disappears, and you simply interact.” He referred to this phenomenon as getting “social presence” in virtual reality. With the help of new VR tools and technology, people can do lifelike virtual reactions.
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Some possibilities in the future would include playing cards with friends, having a job interview, meeting relatives, or even going to concerts.
“Proximity would no longer determine who you spend your time with,” he added.
In the demo of the upcoming VR feature, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer showed everyone watching how Social VR works, or at least what they have done for now. He put on an Oculus VR headset and grabbed a pair of Oculus Touch controllers.
Meanwhile, about 30 miles away, Michael Booth, who is a member of the company’s new Social VR team, wore his own Oculus headset and picked a controller.
Afterwards, the scene switched to a grey landscape where there were two floating mannequin heads. The two heads were representations of the heads of Booth and Schroepfer.
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The audience can easily identify one from the other because Booth’s VR head is colored white and had a pair of glasses and beard, while Schroepfer had a blue head with glasses. He said that the heads are simple representations generated by Facebook.
In addition to their appearance, the two also doodled their own costumes – simple neck ties to add personality to their mannequin heads.
The demo also showed how both Booth and Schroepfer can draw in virtual reality. Booth was even shown holding a 360-degree sphere of a place in London.
The two then magically entered the sphere, and instantly, they were in London, complete with the buses, people, and scenery. Each of the presenters even picked up their virtual reality selfie stick to capture the memorable moment.
The picture was then sent to another virtual reality object that looked like a Facebook mailbox. Instantly, the image was posted on Schropfer’s Facebook page.
For the longest time, virtual reality headsets and other similar tools have been categorized as innovations in gaming, particularly in more recent titles for a more immersive gameplay. However, Facebook has a 10-year plan on how to connect everyone on Earth, and Social VR is just one of their programs.
Once social interaction within a VR environment becomes the norm, which is probably a few years from now, more possibilities may arise such as involvement in medicine, education, and even businesses.
[Photo by Eric Risber/AP Images]