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The Next Generation of the Online Chatroom: Facebook Spaces

Since Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014, we’ve known that they’re looking to experiment with ways to combine social media and virtual reality. At the 2017 F8 Developer Conference, they announced their latest experiment: Facebook Spaces. Spaces is a way to explore Facebook’s content and to hang out with friends, all within virtual reality.

To use Facebook Spaces, the first thing you’ll need to do (apart from owning an Oculus Rift headset) is create a cartoon avatar. Then, you can navigate your personal Facebook account, explore, or hang out with friends.

Browsing Facebook works much the same as it does on a computer, with the notable exception that you can be immerged in friends’ 3D videos. From the Explore tab, you can check out pre-loaded scenes all over the world.

The big focus of Facebook Spaces is the ability to hang out with friends in virtual reality. You can create a group hangout with up to four people, and all of your avatars will be able to hang out in a 360° space of your choice. In addition to chatting, you can share content such as photos and videos from Facebook. You can also use a virtual marker to draw free-hand content. Of course, there’s also a virtual selfie stick to take pictures of your virtual group together.

For friends who don’t own their own Oculus Rift, you can make calls using normal Messenger video calling, and they’ll get a 2D glimpse into your virtual reality hangout.

So far, reviewers have commented that Facebook Spaces seems a little clunky and doesn’t offer enough to make virtual reality chatting more exciting, especially when you have to own a rather expensive Oculus Rift headset to try it out.

Facebook emphasizes that Spaces is “only the beginning” of VR experiences. We can likely expect them to experiment with new features and bring VR to other platforms, such as Instagram. It will probably still be a while, however, before we all sit around with VR headsets.


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