As exciting as virtual reality may be, it often seems to be a rather lonely experience. Oculus is looking to change that.
Last year, in an effort to introduce even more people to social VR experiences, Oculus began to roll out support for its highly anticipated Rooms and Parties features to the Gear VR. First introduced at the Oculus Connect event earlier in 2016, Oculus Rooms and Parties were said to be coming to the Rift headset in 2017, and now, Oculus had made good on that promise.
With the first iteration of Oculus Rooms, you could join your friends in VR and watch movies (and cat videos) together from anywhere in the world. Well, anywhere with an internet connection, at least. Using a Gear VR setup, you could share spaces with friends, interact, hang out, and even stream live from VR.
“The first wave of VR was all about the magic of presence, the immersive sense of actually being inside a virtual space. The next step is to let you feel that same sense of presence with other people in VR,” said the Oculus Team.
But this week, the company has launched Rooms 1.2, which allows you to do even more with your friends and family members in virtual reality, as well as Oculus Events, which lets you organize your experiences. With Rooms 1.2, VR enthusiasts can now watch 360-degree content with a wider community. Thanks to the “collective viewing dome,” which can be found in the middle of any shared environment, you and your friends can watch 360-degree videos on Facebook together.
Also receiving an update is the search function for Oculus Rooms. Beginning this week, you can search for Facebook content using naught but your voice. With a new feature being dubbed Oculus Speech Recognition, your speech becomes your key to just about everything within Oculus.
The VR company’s parent company Facebook also had an announcement last week, noting that it’ll soon be rolling out VR Facebook Livestreaming by way of the Gear VR headset. Over the course of the next few weeks, your Gear VR software will add a “Livestream to Facebook” option, allowing you to share VR games directly over the social network.
Of course, there’s also the Parties feature, which hit the Gear VR last year. Using the new functionality, you’ll be able to make voice calls from VR, and even join each other in compatible multiplayer VR games like Dragon Front and Drop Dead.
There’s not much to the Parties functionality, aside from Rooms and a few games, but as Oculus is fond of pointing out, this is just the beginning. We’re still in the era of silent film when it comes to virtual reality, and with competition between the Rift and HTC Vive heating up, 2017 is poised to be the year of VR.
“This is just the beginning of social VR. We’ll continue building fun ways to share presence and take social interactions in VR to a whole new level,” the release from the Oculus Team reads.
Article first published in December 2016. Updated on 03-12-2017 by Lulu Chang: Added updates about Oculus Rooms, Events, and Facebook livestreaming.