Facebook’s annual F8 Developer Conference kicked off today, and during the opening keynote presentation, the company launched a new VR social platform called Facebook Spaces that lets you interact in VR with your Facebook friends.
Last year at F8, Facebook revealed several aspects of what would become Facebook Spaces. The company demonstrated a basic avatar system, showed how you could share 360-degree images with friends, and how you could have a Facebook Messenger call within VR with friends who have VR HMDs and those who don’t at the same time.
During the Oculus Connect 3 conference in October 2016, Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage and gave a live demonstration of Facebook’s social VR platform, which included a VR call with his wife, Priscilla Chan. We also got a glimpse of the improved avatar system, and the company introduced the party system that lets you bring a group of your Facebook friends into the same virtual environment for virtual social events.
During OC3, Facebook wouldn’t commit to a release date for its social platform on Oculus Rift. We were told to expect an “early 2017” release. Mid-April isn’t exactly early 2017, but we finally have a name for the platform, and you can try it in Early Access on the Oculus Rift.
The Facebook Spaces application integrates directly with your Facebook account, which makes it simple to find your real friends and family to interact within VR. If your Facebook friends have an Oculus Account linked to their Facebook account, you will see them when you log in to Facebook.
Facebook wants you to “be yourself” in Facebook Spaces. The company created an advanced avatar selection and customization system that lets you create a realistic avatar that accurately represents you. Facebook uses computer vision technology to analyze Facebook photos of you and makes suggestions for the best avatar configuration. If you don’t like the suggested option, you can always create something totally custom.
Facebook Spaces allows you to create custom environments to share with your friends and family. You could sit at a virtual table with a friend and share a memory via 360-degree photo or video, for example, or you could create a virtual party space to socialize with friends from around the world. Your friends don’t even need to have a VR system to participate in the fun. You can invite anyone with a Facebook Messenger account to join a virtual party or chat. Friends without VR systems could use their phone’s camera to do a video chat with your virtual avatar and anyone else in the virtual space with you.
Beta Starts Today
Facebook launched the open beta of Facebook Spaces today. You can find the app in the Early Access section of the Oculus Store. Facebook said that it hasn’t finished developing Facebook Spaces yet, and you can expect the company to launch new features in the coming months. Facebook said it’s only just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible with Facebook Spaces.
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Kevin Carbotte is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware who primarily covers VR and AR hardware. He has been writing for us for more than four years.