Facebook and Oculus’ Spaces app is coming on apace and has some exciting features, but its marketing in this case feels a little exploitative.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken center stage ahead of the Oculus Connect 4 show set to take place on Wednesday, October 11, to show off what the social VR app Spaces can do. To highlight its ability to generate a real sense of presence, he and his co-presenter visited some of the devastated areas of Puerto Rico, though their awkward high-five suggests that the immersion isn’t necessarily complete.
One of the most amazing aspects of virtual reality that was obvious from even the earliest Oculus developer kit headsets was its sense of presence, of immersion in a setting. Whether it’s used in terrifying games or real-world refugee camps, it can enable empathy more than any other medium when done correctly.
That seems to be the tone that Zuckerberg was going for when he virtually visited hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to talk about some of the relief efforts Facebook, which owns Oculus VR, has made. If that was the plan though, it didn’t appear to be clear enough for Zuckerberg’s co-host and head of social VR development at Facebook, Rachel Franklin, who encouraged an awkward high-five while virtually visiting a devastated street.
Later in the video, Zuckerberg highlights how Facebook has donated $1.5 million and the time of many of its technical experts to help get the country back online again. But in the same breath, he was keen to show off the ability of Spaces to make you feel as if you’re really visiting some of the ravaged areas of Puerto Rico. As TechSpot points out, the video can at times feel a little crass.
Zuckerberg has since received some criticism for using a disaster to promote his company’s products.
Spaces is expected to be a big focus of Facebook at the upcoming Oculus Connect 4 show, as it is clearly the intention of the social network to leverage virtual reality as a new method of interaction. Virtual meetings and social events are becoming much more easy to handle in virtual reality. Microsoft’s recent acquisition of the AltSpace VR platform, software, and its announcement of new social features in the Windows Mixed Reality platform suggest that this could be the next virtual battleground for some of the biggest tech firms.