A social virtual reality demo by Facebook at its F8 developers conference showed two people separated by 35 miles interacting in VR with hand gestures, voice chat and head movements. The pair connected in VR as naturally as if they were standing together.
In reality, they were in two Oculus Rifts holding Oculus Touch hand controllers. In VR, the social app demo showed the pair taking a virtual selfie inside what looked like a 360-degree photo of London, and uploading it to their Facebook account.
Travelling between different places in the demo is accomplished by placing a clear orb on your head. The teleportation mechanism looks a lot like how Valve’s The Lab transports you to different places in the HTC Vive.
The demo also showed people drawing in VR and then sharing those creations. They essentially wore each other’s VR drawing for their virtual snapshot.
The demo underscores how important hand movement and low latency are to compelling social VR interactions. Previously, Facebook’s Oculus showed what it calls “Toybox” as a kind of playful area in which a couple people can feel what’s termed “social presence” in VR. Typically, though, those demos happen over the same network — people in different rooms feel as if they are in the same one. This latest Facebook demo showed similar technology working over a distance of 35 miles.
It is incredibly important to reduce the latency of these kinds of interactions and, assuming Internet connections can support it, offers a hint of what kinds of social interactions could be possible using VR and the Internet in the relatively near future.
The Facebook demo was heavily reliant on the Oculus Touch controllers, which aren’t shipping yet. It will be interesting to see what sort of social presence will be possible with the already-shipping HTC Vive and its hand controllers over the next few months.