It’s not the Matrix yet, but Facebook recently released a new app, called Oculus Social alpha, which will allow you to virtually travel to the movie theater and enjoy your favorite flick. If you want, you can share this virtual movie watching experience with up to four of your best friends. Everyone must have access to a Samsung Gear VR, a virtual reality headset which works in coordination with the Samsung smartphone using Oculus technology.
Remember those avatars, the little icon that represents you on various social media sites? Oculus Social lets you become your avatar and takes you to a virtual movie theater. The plus here is that if you don’t know what to wear, you can still go out, virtually, and enjoy yourself at the movies. Your avatar gets the best seat in the house, your friends’ avatars can join you, and you can talk to each other. So far, no bodies, just heads. A whole new take on talking heads? To make it more real, the program brings the movie soundtrack from the direction of the virtual screen, and your conversation from the avatars. Ultimately, you will be able to design your avatar to fit your idea of the perfect you, or select from a seemingly endless cast of studio-designed chacters.
It all sounds a bit elementary right now, but this is only the beginning. 2016 is going to see an explosion of development in the social networking virtual reality world. Next year the architects of this project are due to start shipping the Oculus Rift platform: a very lightweight device where each eye has its own separate screen, there are built-in headphones in the headset, and Microsoft’s Xbox One controller is used. Also expected to debut in 2016 are new versions of Microsoft’s HoloLens and Google’s Cardboard—with a VR headset and an open source platform, which will enable more companies to get in on the VR headsets that work with martphones.
Over in the UK, Starship announced the launch of vTime, a virtual social network where you can get together with your friends, no matter where they are, in a single location to enjoy music, watch video content and chat. Starship promises an exciting choice of locations, from urban chic to exotic. This one is Android and iOS compatible.
Scienverse, a virtual reality software development company based in the Netherlands, created a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter to help launch its cloud-based virtual reality world. This appears to be the most futuristic of all, thus far. The platform will work with all the headsets, including Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard and others, and all major operating systems. Scienverse’s virtual reality platform will enable actual voice communication, rather than typing on the keyboard, and will transport users to a Matrix-like world of cities with endless buildings and rooms that will provide hundreds of virtual reality experiences—the social networking of the future.
For Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Oculus was a natural fit for his social networking giant Imagine — that enables “sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.”
In fact, everything about virtual reality will be so amazing and so much better than real life, that you may decide to stay there and escape from the real world altogether. For people who are socially isolated, the future world of virtual reality could be a life saver, giving them the opportunity to engage with society, albeit in a virtual way. On the other hand, could the fantasy world of virtual reality become so seductive that it becomes addictive and isolating?