Facebook outlines social future for Oculus VR

Look-a-like avatars show emotion, in Oculus' new social push.
Written by Jake Smith, Contributor
An avatar of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks with his wife Priscilla Chan (Image: Facebook/CNET).

Virtual reality is moving past games and movies, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced live VR chat using the Oculus Rift during a press event on Thursday.

Using his own look-a-like avatar, Zuckerberg showed avatars that tracked emotion, thanks to the Facebook-owned Oculus hardware. In a demo onstage at the event, an avatar of Zuckerberg chatted with his wife -- in real time.

See also: Facebook shows how it's gonna make virtual reality social

"We should build software and experiences that follow the way our minds work and process the world," Zuckerberg said. "Virtual reality is the perfect platform to put people first because of presence."

Lauren Vegter, social product team leader at Oculus, announced Parties and Rooms for the virtual reality platform, two new features that let people come together in a VR lounge, where they can watch videos, listen to music and hang out. Parties allows up to eight people to chat in VR.

"This is the first time that tech has made this level of social presence possible," Vegter said.

Further, Oculus will soon support Livestreaming to give friends a live broadcast view of what you're seeing in the headset.

It's not surprising Facebook, which acquired Oculus for $2 billion in 2014, would push a social focus for virtual reality. At the end of the day, human interaction is Facebook's bread-and-butter.

That's why Zuckerberg has previously outlined a ten year roadmap for a VR future. Don't expect it to happen quickly, though. Zuckerberg thinks virtual reality will develop slowly as a computing platform, but the company and its Oculus unit is in for the long haul.

During the event on Thursday, Zuckerberg said Facebook will invest $250 million in the Oculus developer community, on top of the of the $250 million it has already given out.

Facebook also announced new Oculus hardware and games.

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