Facebook has always tried to push the envelope with its products and services. It’s overriding aim seems to be to dominate the social media space, and that has fueled it’s acquisitions, innovations and arguably it’s problems.
Facebook has just released a little more information about Facebook Horizon. This is a fully immersive VR environment, and what makes it different to anything else out there on the VR market, the aim of Horizon is to literally create a huge social space. Think about being able to get as close as you possibly can with your friend on the other side of the world, while they are on the other side of the world. Facebook is using words like ‘sandbox’ and ‘immersive’, and the general early view is that it might just deliver.
From the press release:
Horizon invites you to explore an ever-expanding universe of virtual experiences designed and built by the entire community. Everything you see in Horizon, including the Plaza and worlds created by our teams at Facebook, has been built with the Horizon creation tools. In Horizon, you can build the things you want to see and places you want to visit.
Our mission is to create meaningful connections between people and foster a strong sense of community for everyone who joins Horizon. That’s why we’re excited to hear your feedback and work with early adopters to evolve Horizon as we begin to grow its community. Horizon is as much about meaningful connections as it is about creating VR worlds and expressing yourself. Eventually, we envision large spaces where many people can gather in Horizon, but for now, up to eight people can share a space.
There are a couple of things here to unpick. Firstly, it seems Facebook is going to hand the keys to users. We’re not talking full source code here, but it does seem like Horizon will allow users to build at least part of the experience for themselves. Maybe it will be a little bit like Minecraft, or Roblox, two ‘spaces’ that have huge communities. If this is what Horizon ends up doing, we will be looking at something that could be truly engaging. Building part of a world seems to interest everyone, whether they are serious gamers or not. And being able to do that with a social element already sounds like a compelling idea.
Secondly, and this is the potentially game-changing moment, Horizon is meant to be a complete open world. Just think about that for a second. This is going to be a social network (or at least an extension of one) that is built as an open world where you can meet your friends.
And that’s where the fun begins. If Horizon becomes a ‘game’ version of Facebook (or any other major social network for that matter), then there are possibilities for all of the things that can happen on Facebook to happen in Horizon. The only difference is that it will be in real time, will feature scarily real avatars of real people, and will be like living on another planet.
One idea is that you join a party to chat to another person and while you are chatting you explore Horizon together. And that’s pretty cool. The whole thing is viewed and experienced through Oculus, so you’ll need one of those if you want to get involved.
Facebook Horizon is now in Beta. There are some safety concerns but Facebook has already mentioned a ‘safe zone’ that users can immediately access through the wrist menu. That’s an immediate ‘disconnect’ so people can be as safe as soon as possible.
Putting all of that aside, we were intrigued for marketers. If this thing is as big as Facebook clearly wants it to be, can it be too long before companies start advertising on it? How about having virtual stores there that you can visit? Virtual networking meetings?
The possibilities are endless. If Facebook succeeds here, then it will have created the first VR social network.
Watch this space.