Will Users Take to Facebook's New Dual Realities?
For Facebook, if it's not one reality, it's another.
At its annual F8 developer conference this week, Facebook showed several new tools and features bringing virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to the social networking platform. On one hand, these seem familiar, but on the other they could seed the market with new concepts and behaviour.
Facebook Spaces pairs Messenger video calling with a 360-degree world. It's a VR app for the Oculus Rift headset that allows users to interact through avatars. Turn left to look one friend in their virtual eyes and turn right to greet another. The platform allows participants to scribble in the air, play games, take selfies and make video calls to non-virtual Facebook users.
Creating virtual communities is an intriguing feature and it was a vision Facebook had when it acquired Oculus. Nonetheless, the awkward experience of wearing a current-generation VR headset could make the honeymoon period short for Facebook Spaces. Oculus Rift users will quickly install the app, which is available now, but in our view, there's a real risk that they will quickly lose interest.
Facebook Spaces reminds us of Second Life, the virtual world full of personal avatars and digital objects. Second Life has its own economy with real estate speculation, storefronts and newspapers. For a brief time about a decade ago, it seemed as if it would become as important as other emerging social services at the time, but it took a special kind of dedication to stick to the platform. Facebook Spaces, even with the benefit of virtual dimensions, might experience a similar fate.
Also introduced by Facebook at its conference was an AR platform. Camera Effects Platform enables developers to build imaging tools for Facebook users, allowing them to add virtual objects on top of real-world images. Objects can be geotagged, meaning that Facebook apps will allow users to leave virtual post-it notes in a particular location for Facebook friends to find.
Location-triggered virtual objects aren't new, nor is the use of camera-based AR within social media. The shadow of Snapchat is showing on Facebook's latest features, but it was also certainly inspired by last summer's Pokemon Go mania. In fact, the concept of virtual notes originally emerged as a trend known as "air blogging" in the early 2000s, however, technology has now progressed to a point that makes the concept far more viable.
Facebook is bringing new realities to social communications and the user volumes will be worth monitoring. The social media giant needs to keep its users in the platform and actively engaged. Spicing up the Facebook experience with AR and VR is an experiment and one that represents a small risk for the large company.
For more detailed analysis on Facebook's F8 event see Instant Insight: Facebook F8 Developer Conference 2017.