Oculus VR and its parent company Facebook have not yet released the defining social experience for virtual reality. And you might think that is a bit weird for one of the world’s biggest social media companies, and one of its major executives agrees with you.
During a keynote presentation at Oculus Connect 6 today, Oculus chief technology officer John Carmack covered a range of topics. Carmack is known for shooting straight and using a lot of technical language. But when it came to talking about Oculus’s social experiments, he used some plain language to admit that the company is still feeling out the space.
“On the social side, looking back, it’s kinda embarrassing at all the stages that we’ve gone through at Oculus,” Carmack said. “Way back in the early days, I did the social API so people could co-watch Twitch and things. And then we had Spaces and Rooms on Gear and Go. Now we have Horizon.”
He also noted that the company hasn’t even settled on what player characters should look like.
“Our avatars have continuously mutated from little floating heads through three different versions,” said Carmack. “We do not have this well-sorted out at this point.”
Carmack says Facebook is still looking for its social VR hit
During yesterday’s media presentation, Oculus announced Facebook Horizon. This is the company’s latest take on social VR. It’s going to enable players to create their own spaces and games that connect to a central hub. But as part of launching this service in 2020, Oculus is closing down its Rooms and Spaces services on October 25.
Carmack said that it is a shame that they are closing those services.
“I am really sad that we’re going to be [shutting down the servers for] Rooms,” he said. “Rooms can run on Quest. A number of people find some value in it. But it’s not showing any growth. It’s trending down. And they want to focus efforts on the bigger bets.”
The “they” in that last comment is Facebook. The company wants to have the kind of social success in VR that it has on smartphones and the Web. So far, this has proven difficult due to how isolating VR often is — and that’s something Carmack is defensive of.
“I like isolation for a lot of things,” said Carmack. “But it’s kinda antithetical to Facebook’s message of bringing people together. So we keep firing these bullets at things to try to get a hit.”
If Horizon isn’t that hit, maybe Facebook will have something new at Oculus Connect 7 or 8.