UPDATED! A Few New Glimpses of Facebook Horizon on Twitter—and Some Reactions

Facebook has just presented a series of short teaser videos about its forthcoming social VR platform, Facebook Horizon, on Twitter (here’s a link to the entire thread).

Among other things, it shows that Facebook Horizon will support collaborative building, including the ability to resize your avatar as needed while building.

The Facebook Horizon avatars (and the rather blocky, Minecraft-esque style of the user-created worlds briefly presented in these teaser videos) leave me rather underwhelmed, especially after having been immersed in Sansar for so long. Sorry, Facebook. Frankly, I was expecting more than this. Even the Rec Room avatars and the updated AltspaceVR avatars look better than these boring, soulless Horizon ones.

The in-world building tools do remind me strongly of building with prims in vintage Second Life, circa 2003-2007. I’m still trying to decide if that is a good thing or not. Remember that many virtual world content creators got their start with prim building in SL, and eventually moved on to other tools (e.g. Blender) and other platforms (e.g. Sinespace). This could be a good decision in a virtual world intended to appeal to novice users. I wonder if Facebook Horizon will allow users to import more complex mesh items created using programs such as Blender, because that building-block stuff is not going to be terribly appealing to many experienced content creators. And user-generated content (plus a marketplace to buy and sell it) will be key to the success of Horizon.

I will be updating this blogpost throughout the next few days with other people’s reactions to these videos.

I’m quite sure that more details (and commentary on these tweets) will follow. It’s still not enough to entice me to renounce my recent decision to boycott Facebook products and services, however.


Thanks to Jin for the heads up!

UPDATE 1:47 p.m.: Well, that didn’t take very long! Lucas Rizzotto, creator of the wonderful VR app Where Thoughts Go, opines:

This looks like the social VR equivalent of a beige wall. I’m astounded that a company spending hundreds of millions of dollars on social VR can only come up with Rec Room, but Pixar.

In the many good comments made on a tweet made by VR vlogger Nathie of one of the new Facebook Horizon videos, Lhun says:

No legs, major lack of immersion, Roblox gameplay. If it’s as easy as Roblox to build things like that, sure, that’ll be popular, but VRChat it ain’t.

Of course, many people are using comparisons to existing platforms and services in talking about Horizon. Hermit tweeted:

Its Rec Room + VRChat with Facebook integration. This is going to be big, but I’m not sure its going to be good-big or horrifying-big, likely both.

2020.exe Has Stopped Working

Ryan pokes his nose outside of the self-imposed news blackout of his pandemic bunker…

Looks at today’s reporting on the Twitter/Facebook/Zuckerberg/Trump dumpster fire:

… and Ryan hurriedly retreats back into “social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse”, slamming the door shut behind him, until at least 2021.

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.

I Now Have 800 Followers on Twitter!

I logged into Twitter this morning to discover that I have hit a milestone: I now have 800 people following me! I realize that I am nowhere near people such as Kent Bye of the Voices of VR podcast with 24,000 followers, or Robert Scoble with his whopping 407,000 followers (both of whom follow me and sometimes retweet my tweets), but I still think that it’s something.

My handle on Twitter is Quiplash— short for “quipster whiplash”.  I am well-known in both real and virtual worlds for my snappy comebacks and my sarcasm! All of my blogposts here on the RyanSchultz.com blog are automatically posted to my Twitter feed when I hit the Publish button on WordPress.

At the moment, my Twitter feed is a rather bizarre mix of a few friends and coworkers from real life, a lot of people who work in and post about virtual reality, social VR/AR and virtual worlds—and a slew of infectious disease experts whom I started following because of the coronavirus pandemic! As I am trying to cut back on the amount of COVID-19 news I am consuming, I may decide to start pruning the list of people whom I follow on Twitter, to remove many of the latter group. While Twitter has afforded me a fascinating window into what the doctors and researchers talk about during the pandemic, all the relentless news and commentary on the continuing global public health crisis tends to wear me down after a while.

If you want to check out my Twitter profile, it is here. The picture I used for the banner image in my profile is from IDIA Lab’s world 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair, which you can visit and explore in Sansar.

And I’d like to thank all the people who think that I am interesting enough to follow! If you want to join my patrons who choose to support me financially for the blogging and video work I do, I would love you even more! Here’s my Patreon page, or if you prefer, you can simply buy me a coffee, making a one-time US$3 donation. Whether or not you choose to express your appreciation by supporting me financially for the work I do, thank you for reading this blog and following me on Twitter! Your support means the world to me.

Thank you for your support!
(Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay)