Facebook is trying really hard to make the metaverse happen, and at its annual Connect keynote, CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained what exactly that will entail.
If you’re unfamiliar, the metaverse is a bridge between the physical world and the virtual one. For Facebook, that means you’ll strap a virtual reality headset like the Oculus Quest 2 to your face and interact with your friends in a space that looks like your actual house. To that end, the company is releasing something called Horizon Home, the consumer-friendly counterpart to Facebook’s Horizon Workrooms VR-based meeting software.
The idea is that by having the freedom to recreate your home in VR, you’ll have a more welcoming space to invite friends to hang out or party before diving into a VR game. Facebook is bringing its Venues app into the Horizon VR space, so you can watch concerts from your headset and maybe it will feel like being there (???).
Facebook is making it easier to chat with your friends in VR with updated Messenger support on the Quest, allowing you to jump into audio calls, with Facebook saying users will eventually be able to “travel to VR destinations together.”
For VR fitness enthusiasts, Facebook is launching a new set of VR accessories called the Active Pack for Quest 2 next year, which includes new grips for the Quest 2's controller that are easier to hold, even when you’re sweating.
Facebook’s Horizon platform will now consist of Horizon Home (for consumer VR), Horizon Workrooms (for business VR), Horizon Worlds (Facebook’s VR space and playground), and Horizon Venues (for VR shows and performances).
To keep your work and home VR lives separate, Facebook is also introducing Quest for Business, which offers distinct business-only accounts that you can use on consumer Quest 2 headsets, so you don’t need to buy or manage duplicate hardware for home and work. That said, if you do want to get some work done on your own in VR, Facebook is also adding a personal workspace environment to Horizon Home, so if you want to write a story while sitting among virtual mountains, you can.
Facebook also announced that services like Slack, Dropbox, and Instagram can be used in Horizon Home as 2D apps that hover in the and can be repositioned as needed. The first of these new VR-compatible apps will go live today and be available for download in the Quest Store.
But perhaps the biggest update to the core Quest 2 experience is Facebook’s new Interaction SDK, which allows developers to add “high-quality” hand interactions to their apps. This should make it easier to navigate more apps without using the Quest 2's controllers, though it’ll probably take some time for developers to add these new hand controls to existing software.
Of course, VR is just one aspect of the metaverse, and while Facebook recently launched its take on Snapchat Spectacles thanks to a partnership with Ray-Ban, at Connect, Facebook teased that it also has plans for some kind of “full-featured” AR glasses called Project Cambria. Facebook provided more details about its Spark AR platform, which will support its future glasses. Spark is designed to support new apps via body and hand tracking, designated geo-locked areas for AR experiences, and new content creation tools for 3D AR objects.
To start, Facebook is releasing a new free iOS app codenamed Polar that allows people to create and share their own AR effects without needing to know how to code. Facebook is planning to open closed beta applications for Polar later this year.
This might not sound like your idea of an ideal world, with a VR headset or pair of AR glasses attached to your face to approximate socializing or in-person work. But Facebook is doubling down on the metaverse, and if you have an Oculus headset, you’ll be the first to check it out. With new spaces for home, work, and play, Facebook’s version of reality may be coming faster than expected—for better or worse.