Facebook: Virtual Reality as a Social Experience

FacebookAll of a sudden, you find yourself on top of a skyscraper, looking down the unknown abyss below. Standing on the edge forces you to take three steps backward. If not, you are going to fall. But the edge doesn’t exist. You find yourself at Facebook’s annual developer conference. An Oculus headset is strapped to your face. This gadget provides you the virtual demo the social network shared with conference attendees this week at Fort Mason Center, San Francisco Bay.

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg aims to bridge the gap between virtual and reality through his new ownership of the startup that built the Oculus headset. This opportunity provides Facebook to make their vision a reality: to make the world a more open and connected place. According to Zuckerberg, the Oculus plays a vital role in the mission’s fulfillment.

Small Steps Towards Virtual Reality

During his keynote speech last Wednesday, Zuckerberg revealed that his social network is currently experimenting with a 360-degree video that allows users inside recreations of real places, much similar to how the Oculus demo places users inside imaginative places.

Initially, these spherical videos will appear on a user’s News Feed. Facebook users can move through these virtual realities by tilting their smartphones back and forth or to and fro. According to Zuckerberg, they intend to push these virtual realities unto headsets such as the Oculus.

Zuckerberg also adds that smartphone videos serves as opening passages to the world of virtual reality. The idea is users will eventually watch more than just old-fashioned internet videos. Virtual reality videos will be immersive audiovisuals streamed through gadgets such as the Oculus. Some changes will be implemented due to the discomfort of wearing

The Oculus and Samsung’s Gear VR provide a more distinct experience compared to their non-immersive video counterparts. The company expects an enormous number of people willing to use these headsets for gaming purposes. Nonetheless, a few followers doubt the new project’s impact on social media.

Total Disconnect

Users strapped on a Samsung Gear VR to experience a spherical video of Menlo Park Campus. Mike Deerkoski, a technical advisor at a San Francisco startup called Depict, was impressed with the new technology. When asked the amount of time he’ll spend with the gadget on his head, he admits: “I don’t know. It’s a good question.”

Deeroski says that despite his initial dislike at the idea of goggles on his head, he is for the idea of viewing a 360-degree video on his smartphone.

Brian Blau, an analyst with research firm Gartner and possesses experience with VR, sees enormous potential in the Oculus and other similar gadgets. “How compelling is it going to be to sit beside your favorite movie star or get in a race car with your favorite NASCAR driver?” he says. But like other skeptics, Blau doubts its impact on social media. According to him, people will eventually have different ways of communicating with others across the globe.

Social Separation?

Facebook focuses on easy sharing for users. But skeptics feel that virtual reality revolves around big companies and their share with the masses. According to them, not everyone can afford 3D cameras for VR videos. And when users strap goggles, they are separated from the people in their social media network.