The Birth Of Social VR: Oculus Facebook Launches VR Hangout Rooms And Parties For Gear VR

There has been a ton of buzz surrounding virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality hardware and software. The truth of the matter is, nobody really knows if any of these technologies have legs, and if so what field they will thrive in. Developers have largely focused on gaming early on, though what about social? Oculus just launched something called "Oculus Rooms and Parties" for Gear VR owners, and it reminds me of a time when services such as America On-Line and CompuServe brought users together.

"The first wave of VR was all about the magic of presence, the immersive sense of actually being inside a virtual space. The next step is to let you feel that same sense of presence with other people in VR," Oculus explains in a blog post. Finding your friends in VR is easy. Just link your Facebook and Oculus accounts or search for people by their real name or Oculus username. Once you connect and become Oculus friends, you can see when your friends are online, start a voice call, or jump into an experience together."

Oculus Parties and Rooms

It is not surprising that Oculus would look to tie this social experience into Facebook, both because Facebook has nearly 1.8 billion users worldwide and because the social network owns Oculus. In a way, this sort of thing was inevitable the moment Facebook acquired Oculus for $2 billion in 2014.

Oculus Rooms and Parties is sort of a modern day take on the chat rooms from an earlier era. It's not quite the same thing, nor does it support the same number of people in a social gathering—Ocululs Parties can have up to four people. Once assembled together, party participants can join a voice call or enter an Oculus Room where they will find simple games to play and videos to watch. They'll also be able to launch supported apps that have been integrated into the platform.

Oculus Parties

This is an interesting direction for VR, and a logical one. This same sort of focus on social helped spur the Internet at large when it was new and maturing, and it could do the same for VR. For now, however, the experience is limited to Gear VR owners. Oculus says it will bring these same features to the Rift sometime in 2017.

"This is just the beginning of social VR. We’ll continue building fun ways to share presence and take social interactions in VR to a whole new level," Oculus says.