A Look at the New Customization Features in Oculus Home

Some Oculus Home Decorations, Including a Mini Model of the Solar System

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.

I have now added Oculus Home to my list of social VR/virtual worlds.

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Leaked Mark Zuckerberg Email Reveals His Thoughts on How Facebook Could Dominate Virtual Reality

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.)

Titled Leaked Zuckerberg Email Reveals Facebook’s XR Strategy, ‘Our goal is not only to win, but to accelerate its arrival’, the article quotes Mark at length about the strategy behind Facebook buying Oculus for 2 billion dollars in 2014, and what he feels Facebook needs to do to dominate in virtual reality.

Remember this prediction I made last April?

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.

I expect that we will all begin to get some idea of what Facebook has planned with the launch of the standalone Oculus Quest VR headset later this year. Watch carefully for any parallel announcement regarding the next-generation Oculus Home, Oculus Rooms, Facebook Spaces, or a completely rebranded platform where Oculus Go, Quest, and Rift users can meet up with each other. I’m convinced, now more than ever, that it’s going to happen.

Does Facebook/Oculus Need to Get Its Act Together On Social VR? A Thread on Reddit

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.)

Mark Zuckerberg presents the Oculus lineup (image taken from The Ghost Howls blog)

Yesterday, someone posted a lengthy item titled Opinion: Oculus needs to get its sh*t together in social, which I have only quoted in part (so please go over there and read the whole thing):

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.

Why I Am Leaving Facebook and Instagram

Facebook Instagram.png

This evening I finally made a decision. Last summer, I had shared VR pioneer Jaron Lanier’s 10 arguments for deleting your social media accounts on my blog, but I decided at the time that, while Facebook was evil, it was a necessary evil, a way to promote my blog and to stay connected with other people in exchange for being data-mined and sold to advertisers, and therefore I stayed put.

But after reading the latest New York Times report on how Facebook allowed other companies to access its users’ private information without their knowledge or consent, it was the last straw for me:

For years, Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies more intrusive access to users’ personal data than it has disclosed, effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules, according to internal records and interviews.

The special arrangements are detailed in hundreds of pages of Facebook documents obtained by The New York Times. The records, generated in 2017 by the company’s internal system for tracking partnerships, provide the most complete picture yet of the social network’s data-sharing practices. They also underscore how personal data has become the most prized commodity of the digital age, traded on a vast scale by some of the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley and beyond.

The exchange was intended to benefit everyone. Pushing for explosive growth, Facebook got more users, lifting its advertising revenue. Partner companies acquired features to make their products more attractive. Facebook users connected with friends across different devices and websites. But Facebook also assumed extraordinary power over the personal information of its 2.2 billion users — control it has wielded with little transparency or outside oversight.

Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.

The social network permitted Amazon to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, and it let Yahoo view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer, despite public statements that it had stopped that type of sharing years earlier.

I strongly urge you to go to the New York Times website (using the link above) and read the entire article. This is the latest of several damning exposés by the New York Times and other news media on just how much we have been abused—yes, I said, abused—by a social network where we are the product to be bought and sold.

I am fed up. I have had enough. And I am fighting back the only way I can: by shutting down my Facebook and Instagram accounts and deleting all of the data that Facebook has gathered on me. Here’s a link to another New York Times article that gives step-by-step instructions on how to do this. Here’s another article by Consumer Reports.

When am I doing this? At the end of the year. It will give me a couple of weeks to let everybody know, and for me—and them—to set up alternate arrangements to communicate with me, if they wish to do so outside of Facebook.

How is this going to impact me? Well, the biggest thing that I use Facebook for right now is to promote my blog in various Second Life and virtual reality communities on Facebook. I can find other ways to do that. I have also used Facebook to keep in touch with a wide range of real-life and online friends. I will find other ways to stay in touch with people.

As for Instagram, well, I barely use that anyways, so it won’t be any big loss.

But I have finally decided that enough is enough, that Facebook is no longer a necessary evil, but a true evil. And I will longer support it or participate in it, after the end of this year. I will continue to use and support the Oculus VR hardware. But I will no longer use any social media operated by Facebook (that includes Facebook Spaces, the incredibly lame social VR app they launched over a year ago). Using Facebook Spaces requires you to have a Facebook account, so it gets ditched as well. No great loss there either.

I will also be boycotting any service which requires me to have a Facebook/Instagram account to use it. (Thank God, I didn’t use Facebook to log into other websites whenever they offered that as an option. I always went the personal username/email and password route instead. That means that untangling myself from Facebook should be much easier for me.)

It’s going to be an adjustment. I’m going to miss communicating with many of you on Facebook and via Messenger. You and I are going to have to find other, better ways to communicate. Like email, texting/SMS, Skype, FaceTime and the telephone. Like this blog and its comments section. Like my new Discord server. I have lots of options available for you to get ahold of me.

I will be giving up traffic from Facebook to my blog, which was significant but not irreplaceable. I will find other places to promote my blog, other ways to let people know what I’m doing. You can sign up to get blog updates via email (see the left-hand-side panel, under FOLLOW RYANSCHULTZ.COM VIA EMAIL, right under the eight social media buttons). And I’ll be turning off a couple of those social media buttons, too.

goodbye

Good-bye, Facebook. It’s been a fun 13 years. But I no longer trust you, and I’m leaving, and I’m deleting my account and all my data before I go.