In 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus VR, one of America’s top virtual reality tech creators. In 2016, Facebook management was reportedly handing copies of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, the acclaimed science fiction novel about a global-scale virtual reality role-playing game to all new Oculus employees. Something was cooking! On September 25, 2019, Facebook opened the kitchen windows and gave the world a glimpse of its preparation by announcing Facebook Horizon – an expansive VR universe that allows you to create, play, socialize and explore environments created by other users. It both looks and smells amazing!
Facebook’s take on OASIS has set the real world abuzz, with everybody awaiting the closed beta launch scheduled for early next year. Facebook has always proclaimed it wants to make the world more open and connected. Does Horizon have the tools to turn that vision into reality? Let’s find out.
Horizon is Facebook’s most ambitious attempt at creating a large-scale VR universe yet. It’s designed as an ever-expanding social hub that allows the users to create diverse digital avatars and employ them for playing games, creating their own virtual worlds and socializing with other users. Users will be able to jump from one virtual location to another by use of portals known as ‘Telepods’, join their friends at playing multiplayer games, watching movies and accessing other media. Another key feature of Horizon is human guides called ‘Horizon locals’ whose goal is to help users safely explore and enjoy the VR world.
The user avatars are legless 3D models that look straight out of animated movies from DreamWorks and Pixar studios. The style and look of the avatars may or may not change in the future, depending on user trends in the utilization of the creation tools.
Horizon isn’t Facebook’s first foray into the world of social VR. The social networking giant has made two notable attempts at social VR experiences in the past – Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms. But neither of these come close to the promised scale of Horizon.
Facebook Spaces is a VR version of Facebook designed for Oculus VR goggles. Users can create avatars in their own likeliness and customize these to express themselves and interact with other users in a shared virtual space. Spaces allow users to access a specially curated collection of 360-degree videos and photos using a controller, along with their personal feed and account media. Spaces users can chat and watch movies and other media and click VR selfies with their friends.
Oculus Rooms is a customizable VR apartment where users can invite their pals over to watch videos and play a variety of board games. They can also use group app launcher to play multiplayer games like Drop Dead and Dragon Front. Rooms allow users to virtually hang out with their friends in a manner identical to how they hang out in real life.
Despite receiving overall favorable reviews, neither Facebook Spaces nor Oculus Rooms was able to garner a wide-scale following. They felt like a part of a larger VR experience instead of well-rounded individual entities of their own. Now, with Horizon on the horizon, Facebook is shutting down both Spaces and rooms effective October 25, 2019.
The central location in Facebook Horizon is a pretty little town square. Users begin by creating their avatars and customizing these using a wide range of avatar tools. They can then head out to explore or use Horizon World Builder to create their own vacation spots and gaming arenas.
Horizon employs an object creator tool similar to the sculpting feature in Oculus. The creative possibilities are infinite – users can create everything from custom t-shirts to complete islands that they can invite their friends over to!
Facebook Horizon has its very own citizenship guidelines that outline how users are expected to behave to create a safe and friendly culture. Users are urged to be respectful as they explore new environments and remain friendly to other users at all times. ‘Horizon locals’, the VR customer support will always be at hand to answer users’ queries and resolve any safety or technical issues.
In Horizon, users are in control of their personal boundaries and can choose who can get within touching proximity with their avatars. Tapping the ‘shield’ button will instantly take the user to a private space within Horizon. Users also have the ability to block, mute and report others as and when required.
Horizon is set to introduce the wider public to a wonderfully engrossing world of socializing that’s richer and functionally superior to VR experiences of the past. But horizon can be applied to more than just interpersonal communication. The following are just some of the innumerable ways businesses and people can use Horizon.
Horizon is expected to create a wider market for VR gaming by taking it to users across the globe. VR gaming apparatus is nowhere close to as common or popular as gaming consoles like PlayStation and Xbox. The arrival of Horizon is expected to encourage the development of more VR games and increase the number of people that play them.
Businesses are about to find a whole new world to promote their brands and they’ll need to get creative about the ways they go about it. Virtual billboards, avatars bearing posters or dressed in apparel with the names or logos of their brands are some obvious ways of advertising in the VR world. Expect to see some unique and surprising promotional strategies as time rolls on.
Horizon is sure to open new avenues for retailers. Users can expect to come across virtual stores to place an order for real supplies and services – from purchasing clothing and accessories to vehicles and repairs, the possibilities are endless.
There was a time that Facebook status updates and Life Events seemed like a novel way of sharing. Today, Instagram’s amazing image sharing, and Snapchat’s quirkiness has stolen Facebook’s thunder. From what we’ve seen of Horizon, Facebook seems well equipped to turn the world VR crazy and rule the social scene once again!
Source – Techcrunch