The Future of Social VR: Facebook Horizon

Oculus Connect 6 came with some big announcements including hand tracking and Facebook Horizons.

virtual reality surgery
Hand tracking isn’t new. Here I am, using my hands in VR in 2018.

I was an early adoptor of Facebook Spaces. I even figured out how to rig my HTC Vive to use it. It was fun to be in an environment that didn’t expect anything of me. I could take selfies or call my mom from Facebook Messenger and talk to her as my avatar. I loved encircling myself in my 360 photos of Universal Studios.

After a time, I stopped visiting Spaces. I never did meet anyone else in that virtual world. My VR use took a significant hit after I had my kid. At least VR makers are taking a step in the right direction with features like the pass-through viewer.

Farewell Facebook Spaces.

Facebook Horizon is a social VR world where you can play games, paint, and ignore your family (joking).

Who is Facebook Horizon for? Young people have fled Facebook for SnapChat and Tik Tok. I don’t see my parents buying an Oculus Quest anytime soon, let alone aimlessly roam Horizon. People my age, the original Facebook crowd, have become aware of social media’s negative impact on our personal lives and society. Even if we can’t quite sever the ties, we’re aware that social media companies mine our data. Nothing on our news feed is an accident from ads, to which friend’s posts you see, to what headlines are allowed to be shared.

I deleted my Facebook account in early 2019, after over a decade being on the platform. I’m not going back. Not for a Quest with hand tracking. And especially not for another social platform that will no doubt have its fair share of creeps.

Not everyone agrees with me. Ryan Shultz, a metaverse enthusiast whose blog I follow, recently posted that he created a new Facebook account to sign up for the Facebook Horizon beta. This is after he too deleted his Facebook and Instagram accounts at the end of 2018.

He says of rejoining Facebook,

I am willing to come back, but I am damn wary. And I have essentially locked down everything I can using Facebook’s own security and privacy settings, as well as installing and setting up the excellent F.B. (Fluff Buster) Purity web browser extension.

Ryan Schultz

What happened to “the future is private”?

At F8 this year, Facebook announced that it was moving to groups, focusing on private messaging, and security. Zuckerberg said that the future is private so how does an open VR world play into that strategy?

According to Facebook, users of Horizon are “Citizens” who hail from across the globe.

Horizon is a diverse world with many activities, environments, and people from across the globe… A Horizon citizen is friendly, inclusive, and curious. 

A Horizon citizen is friendly, inclusive, and curious? Hmm, this is totally how people on public social platforms behave.

My favorite comments

I couldn’t help myself from going to the comments sections on the various announcements about Facebook Horizon. Immediately people started making references to Ready Player One’s Oasis. I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees that Facebook is the evil company, IOI. Mark Zuckerberg is hardly James Halliday.

In response to TechCrunch’s Tweet.

On LinkedIn, a few comments from Rob Scoble’s post about Facebook Horizon.

Are you excited about social VR? Will you use Facebook Horizon? Let me know in the comments below!

Featured photo by Bram Van Oost on Unsplash


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