Facebook to Launch Its Own Social VR Platform in Early 2020, Called Facebook Horizon

More details later, but Mark Zuckerberg has announced the name of Facebook’s social VR platform: Facebook Horizon, which will launch sometime next year:

The avatars seem to be upper-body only, at least from the screen captures I took directly from Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote presentation (note that these first couple of images seem to be more stylized than the later images in the update below, which I suspect are much closer to what the avatars actually look like):

So there you have it! The 900-pound gorilla of social VR has been announced. And you can bet that Facebook is going to use every single tool and tactic at its disposal to make sure that Horizon is your social VR platform. Count on it.

Sansar, High Fidelity, Sinespace, Somnium Space, VRChat, and Rec Room—and all the other existing social VR platforms—now have a new and formidable opponent.

I will try to write up another blogpost this evening when I get home from work, with details of other announcements made today at OC6.

UPDATE 12:52 p.m.: Here’s a few more screenshots of Facebook Horizon, which plans to have its closed beta launch early next year. It was announced that everybody in attendance at the keynote will receive an invitation to the closed beta.

The avatars remind me strongly of Facebook Spaces—not necessarily a good thing. It’s clear that they will be more cartoon-like than realistic-looking (at least they won’t be the extremely low-poly ones used by AltspaceVR and Rec Room):

In the following screenshot, you can just make out name tags over the avatars’ heads (which I assume you can turn on and off as required):

And it would seem that Horizon will have in-world building tools, similar to the venerable prim-building tools available in Second Life, but hopefully more powerful:

Also, it would appear that you are going to have to have an account on the Facebook social network in order to participate in Horizon. I am not happy about this, but this is hardly a surprise. I will be more surprised if you don’t have to have a Facebook account to use Horizon.

Remember, Facebook can leverage off the estimated 2.7 billion people around the world who use Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, or Messenger each month. An estimated 2.1 billion people use at least one of the Facebook family of services every day. Stop and think about the huge competitive advantage that gives Facebook.

And… well, OK, I want to get my hot little hands on an invitation to the closed beta of Facebook Horizon early next year, which apparently all the attendees at today’s keynote will receive. I need to know: is there anybody at OC6 willing to give me their invite? I want to get into that closed beta!

UPDATE 1:35 p.m.: Here’s an update directly from Facebook about Facebook Horizon:

VR is already a great place to hang out with friends, play games, and watch movies. It’s also a fantastic way to learn new skills and explore our world. Human curiosity and connection are central to each of these experiences, and they’re also at the heart of Horizon. Starting with a bustling town square where people will meet and mingle, the Horizon experience then expands to an interconnected world where people can explore new places, play games, build communities, and even create their own new experiences.

Before stepping into Horizon for the first time, people will design their own avatars from an array of style and body options to ensure everyone can fully express their individuality. From there, magic-like portals—called telepods—will transport people from public spaces to new worlds filled with adventure and exploration. At first, people will hop into games and experiences built by Facebook, like Wing Strikers, a multiplayer aerial experience.

But that’s just the beginning. People will also jump into various other Horizon worlds, built using the World Builder, a collection of easy-to-use creator tools. Everyone will have the power to build new worlds and activities, from tropical hangout spots to interactive action arenas, all from scratch—no previous coding experience needed. Whether people choose to build, play, or simply hang out, Horizon will ensure a welcoming environment through new safety tools and human guides—Horizon Locals—to answer questions and provide assistance, if needed.

As we focus our efforts on launching Facebook Horizon in 2020, we’ll be closing down Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms on October 25. We’re grateful to each and every one of you who joined us in those experiences and have followed us on this journey—and we look forward to having you join us in Facebook Horizon in 2020.

The Horizon beta will open early next year. Sign up at oculus.com/facebookhorizon/sign-up to be notified when the beta opens in 2020. We can’t wait to see all of the new experiences, communities, and worlds people will build together.