Oculus has quietly launched an alpha version of it’s long awaited ‘Social’ platform, debuting on the Samsung Gear VR. The application lets your pick avatars, share virtual spaces and interact with others in virtual reality and represents somewhat of a landmark in Oculus’ consumer VR roadmap.
Way back at Oculus’ inaugural developer conference ‘Connect’ in 2014, there were indications that, perhaps predictably given the firm’s Facebook acquisition last year, it was concentrating very hard on providing a platform integrated with it’s software portal Oculus Home that brings VR users together. We broke the story that Oculus’ social SDK had been leaked out in this year’s Connect schedule and sure enough, the company’s API for enabling social interactivity was front and centre at the event.
Now, Oculus have released an early version of it’s bid to bring VR users together, enabling users to create online identities from avatar selections, represented as floating cartoon-style heads (much like Convrge has been doing for some time) in VR. What can you do once you’ve crafted a new virtual ‘you’? This early release lets you join friends inside Oculus Cinema and tries to replicate some of the magic (and presumably some of the irritations to) of sharing with friends a cinematic experience.
As said, the social application is limited to Gear VR users right now and it’s currently region locked as far as we can tell to North American users only so those in Europe and elsewhere will either have to resort to VPNs or wait a little longer to widen the availability of the application.
It’s an important step on the road to fleshing out the ‘full fat’ virtual reality experience in readiness for Oculus’ consumer release in Q1 2016, although we’ve yet to see the likes of Oculus Home, the company’s content portal which launched alongside and powers Gear VR owners’ experiences, on the Rift as yet. It’s fair to assume this latest alpha is a good indicator of what we can expect soon.
We’ll have an in depth hands-on with the new initiative very soon, in the mean time our friends over at UploadVR have been quick off the mark sharing their impressions of the experience (photos in this piece courtesy of them).