At the end of 2016, Facebook revealed what could be the most exciting thing in virtual reality right now: Oculus Rooms. When Facebook acquired the virtual reality startup, Oculus, for $2 billion back in 2014, experts wrote it off as just being a risky bet. Some even thought the pair to be incompatible.
Facebook has proved them wrong with the release of Oculus Rooms, a platform that allows you connect with people around the world. Released earlier in January, Oculus Rooms is a platform that enables an enhanced social experience with options to watch movies with other people, customizable apartment spaces, play games etc. It is a truly immersive experience that proves that there is much more to VR than gaming.
Currently, Oculus Rooms is only available for Gear VR users and is not yet available on the Oculus Rift. Facebook has indicated that it will launch Oculus Rooms on Oculus Rift sometime in 2017.
The Chat Area
We are all familiar with the mobile and PC version of the Facebook chat. It is a basic text interface with instant communication. In Oculus Rooms, however, you can create a customizable VR avatar that you can use to interact with others. It is along the same lines as Second Life, but with much less customization available. The customization options are basically limited to gender choice and a few hairstyles.
Facebook has also added new features to make the chatting feel more realistic. As you talk to your friends in Oculus Rooms, their avatar’s mouth moves in sync with what they are saying. Additionally, through the use of gyroscopes and accelerometers, your head movement is also mirrored by the avatar, giving a highly realistic social experience.
If you get tired of chatting, you can together lead into a VR game and play together. This feature adds an entirely new dimension to the Oculus Rooms experience and is one of its biggest draws.
In addition to chatting with other people, you can also play games together. Players can sit across a virtual gaming table, and play basic games such as Lights and Words. This might be the big draw that gets people to use the Oculus Rooms service. Although the games range offered is pretty basic for now, Oculus is known to be working on more advanced ones such as chess and checkers.
It is clear that, for the game to be truly immersive, there needs to be much more work put into the gaming and the avatar options. However, Oculus Rooms is a small but important step in the making social VR possible. This a space that should be watched closely are there is a lot of potential within social VR.
One significant drawback is that Oculus Rooms does not allow for interaction with Random people. You do not have the luxury of just walking into random spaces and interacting with strangers. Currently, you can only interact with your Facebook friends on Oculus Rooms. This one factor might discourage a lot of people from adopting the Oculus Platform, and is something to look forward to in the future.