Facebook Social VR will change how we interact on Social Media. Currently we all use Facebook to know what’s happening in the lives and minds of our friends. We use it to catch up with long lost friends – friends we last saw after graduation. Childhood best friends who disappeared and have suddenly resurfaced but on Facebook. Friends we have never met – friends we call friends simply because they had chosen a good looking photos as their Facebook profile pictures when we sent or accepted that friendship request. Friends we wish we could meet. Friends we can’t meet because they live on the other side of the globe. Friends we will be able to meet simply by using the Facebook Social VR platform.
In the very near future we will be able to meet these friends; not by physical traveling to where they are, but by logging in to our Facebook Accounts, putting on an Oculus Rift VR headset, and throwing to each some 360 degrees photos of the places we want the meeting to be held. That is, Facebook is slowly transforming to become a place not for catching up using status updates, inbox messages and badly typed comments, but a place where you will be able to have real life face to face interactions and meetings through the newly introduced but still underdevelopment Facebook Social VR platform.
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Facebook Social VR will usher in a new era of Social Media interactions. It is the technology and tool that will allow two people who are miles apart to share the same physical environment as they talk, shake hands, hold each other, and eat. This is how it will work:
You are in Nairobi, I am in Nakuru, we both want to meet at a beach in North Coast Mombasa. We will not need to travel there. While in Nairobi, you will only need to put on your Oculus Rift VR, plug it in on a powerful PC that supports VR technology, open your Facebook Account, and access the Facebook Social VR platform. As you do that, I will be doing exactly the same while in Nakuru. You, or me, will then toss a 360 degrees image of the beach and in no time we will both see each other “face to face” and “body to body” at the beach. We will both be able to enjoy the beach, be able to talk, and take selfies.
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What I have described is not hypothetical. It’s not something in Mark Zuckerberg’s dream, but it is already a reality that was demonstrated during the Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference that went down from April 12, 2016 to April 13, 2016. The demonstration showed how Mike Schroepfer, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) while onstage at the conference in San Francisco, US, met with his Facebook colleague who was at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, US. The virtual meetings took place at St Pancras train station in London, Piccadilly Circus in Westminster London , and Tower Bridge also in London. To be at a place, what either of them needed to do is to toss some circular 360 degrees image to the other person and viola, they all became surrounded in the 360 degrees environment of the image. They were even able to take a VR selfie at the Tower Bridge which Schroepfer posted on his Facebook feed just by placing the selfie insider a virtual Facebook mailbox. The meeting was recorded in a video that you can watch by following this link.
Right now Facebook Social VR allows users to use avatars that one can customize to represent how they look like, but Facebook is already working on a way an actual image of a person will be teleported to the VR world. One approach they are considering is the possibility of scanning faces that will then be embedded on the avatars. With time, Facebook wants to be able let users use a true humanoid representation of themselves in the VR world. Facebook is also working on head-mounted cameras to pick up more-detailed mouth movements so that the avatars are more lifelike than is the case currently.
Speaking in regards to the demonstration, Yaser Sheikh, a researcher for Oculus, said that the Facebook Social VR platform will enable people to “share intimate moments like the birth of a child, or enjoy virtual sightseeing with friends.” He emphasized that “genuine, deeply convincing interactions, remotely, is the ultimate goal”. “Imagine a social experience in VR that’s indistinguishable from real life; where the tech disappears and you’re just interacting with another person” … and that is the future of social media interactions and meetups.