Two Early Images of Facebook Horizon Have People Talking on Reddit and Twitter

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Given that Facebook Horizon has asked its alpha testers to sign strict non-disclosure agreements, it’s hardly surprising that there is next to nothing publicly known about the social VR platform Facebook plans to launch sometime in 2020. (Those who do know, can’t say anything, or they risk being booted out of the alpha, and perhaps even banned from Facebook Horizon for life.)

However, a single image has leaked out, and was posted to the Oculus Quest subReddit community on Reddit (the usernames of the avatars in this screen capture have been erased):

The original poster says:

I’m not a Alpha Tester, but I managed to find a screenshot of the Horizon alpha somewhere on the web. It’s unique, couldn’t be reverse searched, and not a promotional shot. (names removed)

Tony Vitillo (a.k.a. SkarredGhost), an Italian man whose blog, The Ghost Howls, often has reviews of products and interesting news reports about the VR industry, posted this image to Twitter, asking:

Is this a screenshot from Facebook Horizon? If it is, it looks a bit simpler than I was expecting…Will it be like this in its first release, or [are the] shaders…going to improve?

Somebody responding to Tony’s tweet posted an image from a closed Facebook group, which appears to confirm that the image is indeed legitimate (I have edited it to blur out the avatar usernames over their heads):

I do not know if somebody broke their NDA to use this image for this group, but it is already out there on Twitter, and the Facebook group is listed as Visible, which means anybody can search for, and find, this particular group. In fact, there are not one but two such groups already, this one and a second one, also Visible, with the following image (which might have been part of Facebook’s original press kit):

Given that there is so little information currently out there about Facebook Horizon, people have weighed in (on both Reddit and Twitter) about these images. Robert Scoble said:

I sure hope it is better than this. Sigh.

And Charlie Fink commented:

I should feel better about this image than I do.

Jossi Sivonen said:

What an anticlimax if so! The gfx (graphic effects) looks way better in this early teaser… (which clearly states that this AIN’T actual VR footage);

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time that a tech company’s promotional teaser video did not resemble the final delivered product (hellooooo, Magic Leap?).

And, I must admit, based on the two “leaked” images above, Facebook Horizon does look a tad…underwhelming. (One person on the Twitter thread said that the shaders looked “cheap”.) Robert Scoble’s comment led to the following exchange:

Tony: I mean, I think that I can do this graphic myself in Unity LOL! I’m sure that a billionaire company like Facebook can do better…

David: Can you do graphics like that at [a] constant 72Hz on Quest with 50 people in a fully customized (from inside VR) world?

Tony: VRChat can do that (the world is built in Unity though), Rec Room has better graphics as well. ENGAGE the same. So, if *this* is the final graphics, it is disappointing. But we all know it is going to be better, it’s impossible [that] it is this one when version 1 will be released.

David: Of the apps you mentioned, only Rec Room has true dynamic inside-VR world creation, and its graphics are pretty much on par with this.

So, what do you think? Are you excited about Facebook Horizon? Do you think that, with Facebook’s clout and deep pockets behind it, it will be the first massively popular social VR platform? Or do you think that, like Facebook Spaces, this will also be a failure?

Please feel free to leave a comment below or, as always, you are welcome to join the freewheeling discussions, arguments, and debates about social VR and virtual worlds taking place among the over 400 people who hang out on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the first cross-worlds discussion forum! We’d love to see you there.

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Facebook Horizon Launches its Closed Alpha

Facebook is really moving forward on the Facebook Horizon social VR platform project, despite (or perhaps because of) the coronavirus pandemic. Yesterday, they launched their platform, still in closed, invitation-only alpha. More details are here.

Somebody posted the following image to the r/OculusQuest community on Reddit, and it has sparked quite the discussion:

(If you can’t figure out what this is, it is the program information page for the Facebook Horizon app, as seen within the Oculus Quest VR headset.)

Apparently, Facebook has been very choosy about who got a highly-prized invitation to the closed alpha. Even if you did receive the two emails that Facebook sent out, and signed the NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), that was no guarantee that you would be accepted:

It’s still a lottery even after you sign a NDA. I noticed in one of the Facebook Horizon groups on Facebook. A guy mentioned after he returned his NDA Facebook rejected him. So it’s the luck of the draw.

One person wrote:

Ha, there were so many people the other day saying the development stopped or failed since it was removed from the Coming Soon section. Crazy folks. Facebook is not going to stop development and it’s going to kill when it does release, I can guarantee it.

To which I replied:

Well, there’s absolutely no guarantee that people will actually *use* it. Other social VR platforms have struggled mightily to attract users (e.g. High Fidelity, Sansar).

One problem is that, on Facebook Horizon, you won’t be able to be anybody but yourself, as I wrote about here.

Lots of people use social VR platforms and the older virtual worlds to be SOMEBODY ELSE, not have it tied to their real-life identities.

Interesting times…stay tuned for further news and developments!

Further Details on the Facebook Horizon Closed Alpha Test

Welp, it’s official. I will not be part of the closed alpha test of Facebook Horizon. (Boo hoo.)

But somebody who was accepted shared the following email message:

We can learn a few new things from this email:

  • There will be a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) which all alpha testers must sign before being accepted. Facebook will, unsurprisingly, keep a tight lid on any information about its new social VR platform. (I expected this.)
  • Things are moving much more quickly than I expected; it would appear that Facebook will indeed launch the closed alpha “in the next few weeks” with this first accepted group of testers, as I previously reported.

And (as I expected), my private email to Janet Lee, the Product Marketing Manager of VR/AR Experiences and the executive who appears to be in charge of this closed alpha, has gone unanswered.

But it would appear that Facebook is not letting a coronavirus pandemic get in the way of their plans to launch Facebook Horizon, as I had speculated earlier this year. Good for them. A new social VR platform could prove to be very popular in these times of global pandemic!

News: Facebook Horizon to Launch a Closed Alpha This Spring

Finally! I have heard through the grapevine that Facebook will be launching a closed alpha of their social VR platform, Facebook Horizon, this spring:

As I have written before, I did sign up for the alpha as soon as I heard about it, but I have not yet received an email. Sigh. I have sent an email to Janet Lee, inquiring if I might still take part (although from this email it sounds as if they have already made their first selection of applicants).

And, by using the word alpha instead of beta, it sounds as if Facebook Horizon is still a bit rough around the edges. (When Sansar launched their invitation-only testing back in 2016, they called it a beta test.)

UPDATE 1:22 p.m.: Apparently, there was an alpha before the beta for Sansar, which was before my time.