Video Hands-On with ‘Oculus Social’, Enabling Shared Experiences on Gear VR

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Always on the bleeding edge, Road to VR‘s Scott Hayden braves the brand new Oculus Social alpha release, Oculus’ answer to social interaction between users in virtual reality, just released on Gear VR. He also recorded his experiences for your viewing pleasure.

Oculus Social snuck its way onto Gear VR’s app list yesterday and it’s the first glimpse of the company’s solutions to social interactions in virtual reality, a sneak peek at the future we can expect all to enjoy once the consumer Oculus Rift reached us in Q1 2016.

See Also: ‘Oculus Social SDK’ Slips Out in Connect 2 Schedule

Firing up the Oculus Social application, post install, I was confronted with a selection of pre-set avatars–or rather floating heads of varying cuteness–I decided on the weirdest and possibly the most off-putting head available, a green alien. These are apparently changeable at any time, so don’t worry if your new persona doesn’t quite fit you after trying it out.

oculus social

For now there are only six rooms available, three dedicated to Twitch channels and the other three to a handful of preselected short films from Vimeo. The rooms play as open lobbies, fitting in a max of up to five people.

I popped into a room displaying a 4/5 capacity and was automatically placed in among 4 other floating heads sitting in the plush theatre chairs idly chatting about the League of Legends match currently playing.

oculus social avatars (cropped)The heads had eyes that blinked, and locked gaze occasionally. Although eye tracking isn’t yet possible in the current generation of Gear VR, the approximation was enough to give me pause. “Hey. When you look at me, do you see me looking at you?” I asked the guy next to me. He nodded. Sure enough, he was looking into my big oval alien peepers too, and a simple gesture from the Gear’s head tracking was all it took.

Audio was flawless, and with the ability to mute yourself–shown with a red ‘X’ placed over your avatar’s mouth–you wouldn’t be expected to speak if you didn’t want to. When you did speak a nifty signal would eminate from your avatar’s continually closed mouth as a visual signal that the your were transmitting to your new virtual companions. The app also gives you the ability to turn down the entire group’s chat volume and turn up the streaming content should you get sick of your theatre mates.

The Oculus Social app on Gear VR makes it easy to pile into a room and instantly start chatting with a group of 4 other people. Streaming content is a natural fit, and the avatars are emotive enough to feel like there’s actually a person behind the headset. I’m looking forward to when I can send out movie night invites to my friends overseas and we can sit and have a beer together in VR.