I must confess that I haven’t been paying much attention to Oculus Home, which I always saw just as a space to organize your purchased VR games and experiences. But Facebook/Oculus has been slowly but steadily building Oculus Home to the point where we can now consider it a true social VR platform. The VR news site UploadVR reports:
The latest update to Oculus Home adds custom environments support…
Support for user-generated objects was added back in June. A subsequent update even added animation support. And later in the month, the platform added real-time social, allowing up to 7 friends to visit your home and see those custom objects.
But until now the actual home geometry was the same for all users. The background could be changed between hills, space, a bay, or a future city, but the home itself could not.
David Hall (a long-time Sansar resident who has built a number of wonderful experiences including the Lord of the Rings-inspired Dwarven City and the futuristic Avalon social hub) has posted the following video to his YouTube channel. It is a livestream of him showing several of his own homes in Oculus Home, plus a tour of several other people’s homes:
I love the transition effects when David moves from one home to another, the way one home rezzes out of existence, and the new one rezzes in!
Oculus Home already includes functioning weapons such as bows and guns, as well as some cool animated content like a miniature model of the solar system you can see in a couple of visited homes in this video, and in the picture at the top of this blogpost.
There’s an extremely interesting article on the Road to VR website, that’s worth a read. Apparently, an author writing a book about the history of VR has obtained a copy of a lengthy 2015 email that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook sent to his senior executives. (The email has been confirmed by Road to VR, a major news reporting website on VR, as authentic.)
What I predict will happen, over the next two years, is that one of the Big Five computer companies: – Alphabet/Google – Amazon – Apple – Facebook/Oculus – Microsoft
Is either going to launch their own social VR/virtual world/metaverse product, OR is going to buy one of the Big Four metaverse-building companies: – High Fidelity – Linden Lab (Second Life and Sansar) – Sine Wave Entertainment (Sinespace) – VRChat
Well, keep that in mind, and read this direct quote from Mark’s email:
The key [VR] apps are what you’d expect: social communication and media consumption, especially immersive video. Gaming is critical but is more hits-driven and ephemeral, so owning the key games seems less important than simply making sure they exist on our platform. I expect everyone will use social communication and media consumption tools, and that we’ll build a large business if we are successful in these spaces. We will need a large investment and dedicated strategy to build the best services in these spaces. For now, though, I’ll just assert that building social services is our core competence, so I’ll save elaborating further on that for another day.
The platform vision is around key services that many apps use: identity, content and avatar makerplace, app distribution store, ads, payments and other social functionality. These services share the common properties of network effects, scarcity and therefore monetization potential. The more developers who use our content marketplace or app store or payments system, the better they become and the more effectively we can make money.
It seems pretty clear to me, from this email, that Facebook is planning to step into social VR in a major way. Mark sees “social communication and media consumption” as the killer app for VR, and they want to be a part of it. Facebook, for better or for worse, wants to dominate social virtual reality the way they already dominate social media.
As most of you already know, I quit Facebook as my New Year’s resolution, and I am still quite happy with my decision.
One of the places where I have spent more time since leaving Facebook has been Reddit, which is home to many thriving communities such as the Oculus subReddit, with over 140,000 subscribers who discuss and debate various issues related to Oculus VR hardware and software. (Sometimes I cross-post one of my blogposts there.)
First, it’s ridiculous that cross-communication between the Go and Rift communities is so difficult, especially with Quest coming. VR social presence should be an underlying infrastructure that the whole Oculus ecosystem can plug into… Oculus: don’t split the VR community simply because of which of your own platforms they buy. Make communication easy, automatic, and built in.
Second, where the hell is the metaverse/Oasis/shared world? I know, VR Chat, AltspaceVR, Rec Room, High Fidelity, etc. …but why has Oculus–let alone Facebook!–abdicated this whole sector to third parties?
Now, this poster has raised a valid point. Why is social VR across all the Oculus hardware such a disorganized mess? Currently, Facebook offers Oculus Rooms for the Oculus Go users and Facebook Spaces for Oculus Rift users. Is Facebook going to use the release of the Oculus Quest (which I predict will be popular) to try and clean up this situation?
Some of the comments to this poster are worth quoting (again, I am going to take it easy with the quoting, taking into account the feedback I have recently received). I did go in and write a lengthy response, outlining the situation as I see it, and pointing out that there were already many social VR platforms which have been in development for several years (Sansar, High Fidelity, Sinespace, etc.).
When I said that High Fidelity and VRChat were planning to support the upcoming standalone Oculus Quest VR headset, one person responded:
Sadly, I don’t think VRChat’s gonna support Quest. It’s just not compatible with mobile CPUs. Hell, it brings modern up-to-date PC’s to a standstill with too many people. I very much doubt the Snapdragon 835 can handle all the custom shaders, avatars, IK, etc. The team would basically need to do a full rewrite. And that’s unlikely unless the team was way bigger.
Someone else said:
Do you really WANT Facebook also own the social VR “metaverse”? That seems like a really terrible idea in general to have a monopoly control so many things. Especially one that has proven dozens of times that they could care less about our privacy in respect to their profits…
I for one HOPE Oculus fails WILDLY on social VR. The alternative would be the worst-case dystopian future for VR and likely disasterous for humanity as a whole in the long-term.
To which I say, Amen and Hallelujah. However, Facebook has the deep pockets (lots of money) and the hardware (Oculus) to totally up-end the current, nascent social VR market, if they finally get their act together and choose to do so.
And finally, one person said:
To me it comes down to this—people want Second Life in VR format. It’s true. A metaverse where you can build or be anything you want…but in VR. We know that SL’s infrastructure cannot be upgraded to do that. High Fidelity, even with the founder of SL, isn’t cutting it. And neither is Sansar, Linden Lab’s actual VR offering.
I believe there are two main issues impeding them. 1. Instances – every platform nowadays does instance based “world” creation. Worlds are not permanent, player join numbers are limited, and the worlds are not visually connected to each other. People want permanence! To be able to wander from one place to the next aimlessly. This isn’t just an issue limited to VR of course (hello WoW). The reasoning behind this is that it’s much easier on the server hardware. Personally, I’d deal with some lag to be able to participate in a true open world environment. And
2. Adult content – All of the platforms are scared as f*** here. They don’t want their brand to be ‘marked’ by that, they don’t want to have to figure out how to police it, etc etc. That stuff is not going away. Whether they admit it or not, adult content has kept Second Life alive and thriving for 15 years (they still have ~50k concurrent users). Bottom line—deal with it. Embrace it. It’s going to happen with or without you.
This wide-ranging and fascinating discussion is the kind of thing that Reddit has become well-known for, and I would encourage you to go over there and read all or most of it for yourself, and perhaps add your own comments.
Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? Come join 170 avid users of various metaverse platforms, and discuss social VR and virtual world predictions for 2019! More details here.
Time to peer into that crystal ball and make some predictions!
First: Second Life is going to continue to coast along, baffling the mainstream news media and the general public with its vitality and longevity. It will continue to be a reliable cash cow for Linden Lab as they put a portion of that profit into building Sansar. And I also predict that the ability to change your first and last names in SL will prove very popular—and also very lucrative for Linden Lab! Remember, they’ve got seven years of pent-up demand for this feature. (I have a couple of avatars myself that I’d like to rename.)
Third: I confidently predict that one or more blockchain-based virtual worlds are going to fold. Not Decentraland; there’s too much money tied up in that one to fail. But several cryptocurrency-based virtual worlds are starting to look like trainwrecks of epic proportions (and I’m looking at you, Staramaba Spaces/Materia.One). Somebody still needs to explain to me why people will want to pay to hang out with 3D-scanned replicas of Paris Hilton and Hulk Hogan. The business model makes absolutely no sense to me. Another one that I think is going to struggle in 2019 is Mark Space.
Fifth: High Fidelity and Sansar will continue their friendly rivalry as both social VR platforms hold splashy events in the new year. (I’m really sorry I missed the recent preview of Queen Nefertari’s tomb in HiFi, but it looks as though there will be many other such opportunities in 2019.) And High Fidelity will continue to boast of new records in avatar capacity at well-attended events (it certainly helps that they’ve got those venture-capital dollars to spend, to offer monetary enticements for users to pile on for stress testing).
Sixth: the Oculus Quest VR headset will ignite the long-awaited boom in virtual reality that the analysts have been predicting for years. There; I’ve said it! And those social VR platforms which support Oculus Quest users will benefit.
And Facebook? If they thought 2018 was a bad year, I predict that we’re going to see even more scandals uncovered in 2019 by news organizations such as the New York Times. And more people (like me) will decide that they’ve had enough of being sold to other corporations and data-mined to within an inch of their lives, and jump ship. The public relations people at Facebook are going to face a lot of sleepless nights…
And, still on the same topic, we might yet see the launch of a new social VR platform backed by Facebook, after they decide to ditch the lamentable Facebook Spaces once and for all. Maybe it will be based on Oculus Rooms; maybe it will be something completely different. But despite my negative feelings about the social networking side of Facebook, they still have the hardware (Oculus), the money, and the reach to be a game-changer in social VR. (Just not with Facebook Spaces. At this point, they should just kill the project and start over. Any improvements will be like putting lipstick on a pig.)
Finally, I predict that the RyanSchultz.com blog will head off into new and rather unexpected directions (that is, if the past 12 months’ activity is any indication!). I never expected to cover blockchain-based virtual worlds, or Second Life freebies; they just kind of happened. Expect more of the same in 2019, as various new topics catch my interest.