Facebook Connect is coming!
Part I of this blog series can be found here
Since Part I of this blog post series Facebook Horizon has transitioned into private beta giving us a real glimpse into the future of Facebook's new social VR platform. Although I have yet to receive a beta invite, I have gotten feedback and some specific questions answered from Horizon testers. Based on live streams that have been shared and direct feedback from those who are able to get into the experience, I will share a few thoughts
So what is Facebook Horizon?
Facebook Horizon is borrowing from several social experiences that have come before it. While many were expecting AltSpace with better avatars, it seems we are getting a lot more than that. Facebook has put a lot of work into making social VR content creation approachable for everyone. Their intention is for many users, perhaps even most users to create the world that will become Facebook Horizon.
Example video showing Horizon world building process
To achieve this they've borrowed from many successful tools including visual scripting systems like Unreal Engine's Blueprints and the Scratch programming language from MIT Media Lab which is targeted for children.
This is allowing for dynamic, interactive worlds to be created by users entirely from inside Horizon. With some effort in learning the tools, any Horizon user can enter world builder mode and create simple (perhaps even moderately complex) games. Once the world is ready to be opened the creator can make it searchable
For select worlds Facebook will allow portals from the popular gathering zones that are part of the core Horizon meta-verse. Portals can also be used by world creators to link their creations to others.
To party up users just gather in a circle and touch hands, but make sure you leave the party or the microphone will stay on even after you've left Horizon and gone on to other things
As expected, Facebook Horizon has deep integration with the Facebook mobile app and website. While Horizon mask a users real name behind their Horizon alias, it does use your Facebook and Oculus friends list to recommend for your Horizon friends list. There's also a virtual selfie stick that you can use to take photos and instantly share to social media feed.
Facebook Horizon - Features and observations in a nutshell
- In current form consist of a small group of Facebook created gathering places and interactive worlds, designed to be starting point for a universe for content creators to fill up with compelling custom worlds that will be linked and explored by groups.
- A lot of thought and planning has gone into making the experience as safe and comfortable as possible for everyone. In-experience moderating is expected to be used rules strictly enforced .
- Horizon has the feel of an empty canvas waiting to be painted on
- Almost all content in Horizon will end up being created in Horizon
- No signs in beta of monetization strategy or use of advertising, yet
- Custom worlds currently have an 8 player capacity/limit
- No ability yet to restrict world entry to only a specific set of users.
So there is no private content allowed in Horizon, at least not yet.
EDIT: Since I originally published this post, I have since gained beta access. Although world's can not be set as "private" yet, there is an option in World publish settings to make it non-searchable (unlisted). A developer could unlist a world then script a password entry system to attempt to gate content.
- Menus share a Facebook aesthetic. Expecting deeper Facebook integration moving forward
- Very simple aesthetic with no texture mapping. I'm sure this was done for both performance considerations and to greatly simplify world building
Providing a video of beta tester Cookie Lyne's experience
Facebook Connect Sessions
Productivity Super-powered by VR
This session's description mentions Enterprise and consumer productivity, but I believe this session will be primarily Enterprise VR focused; giving attendees an overview of some of the new case studies that have resulted from year one of the Oculus For Business ISV program and talking at high level about some of the problems VR is solving in this space.
- Enterprise VR focused talking about implementation
- Light discussion of the latest Oculus for Business platform tools
- Discussion of Infinite office.
Securing Your Content
We have no details on this session, but LinkedIn tells us the presenter Shaheen Gandhi is with Oculus, so I think it will be a session focused on securing Oculus Quest and Rift experiences.
- Best developer practices for securing mobile and desktop apps
- Discussion of security standard protocols and how FRL is working to secure our content.
State of the art GPU profiling on Quest
Because of the push for more equality between tools and resources for Unity and Unreal developers, I expect this to be a game engine agnostic session that explores the latest profiling tools for both game engines. For a great general overview of using the current Unity 2020 Profiler and all its features this Unity Unite session is worth checking out.
Also for developers interested in topic, this article is a must read
- New mobile game engine agnostic mobile GPU tools announced and demonstrated
The Future of Web in VR for Work and Play
As stated in the description, this one will provide more talk on the new Infinite Office features of Quest. It will be interesting to see how they relate this to WebXR and what Facebook Reality Labs has planned for WebXR. WebXR has seemed to struggle since its introduction. In the past few weeks Mozilla announced that they are shutting down Firefox Reality
Mozilla's Firefox Reality browser has been one of the most popular clients for WebXR content.
- Discussion of how Oculus's native browser has improved WebXR support
- Use cases for WebXR vs native
The State of Social Impact VR
Another panel discussion. This one brings in top talent behind non-gaming VR experiences that fall into the VR for Good and Enterprise categories. I'm not going to speculate on this one as I don't know enough about the content these authors have created. I will say that I am glad to see sessions focusing on how VR can be used to make real impact in the world beyond the entertainment-gaming use case it's roots have in a way been sand-boxed it into. I have long felt that VR for gaming will for many, many years to come remain niche, while VR in general has the ability to completely transform (and is transforming) Enterprise training and delivering therapy and other non-entertainment experiences that change people and change the world.
VR Storytelling: A Magical New Format.
Continue the trend of non-gaming related sessions, this one looks to focus on tools for creators, specifically using Quill to do visual story telling in VR. If you haven't heard of Quill, here's an introductory video
Building Your Community of Superusers
I believe this session will be part marketing focused and design-marketing-in-mind focused. From the description, I interpret "building a community" as building a following. Given the quality and intuitive nature of the world building tools we've now seen from Horizon streamers, it's also possible this session will dive a bit into building custom Horizon world's and fostering a community in them.
Come to Your Senses: Synesthesia in VR
This will be a developer talk with the brilliant mind behind two very unique VR titles Rez Infinite and Tetris Effect. This session should be great! Mizuguchi and his team's work stands at a gap between entertainment and art. Simply put, we need a lot more titles in this category and it will be interesting to hear his theory and approach to using Synesthesia in game design.
Creating Live Performances in Social VR
Presenter Nate Barsetti is the manager of Facebook Reality Labs - Venues. He is Production and Operations manger. I believe this session is serving to help explain his teams process and to help market Venues services for virtual entertainment: performing arts, concerts, etc... The session may also be used to help market yet to be announced in-VR performance scenarios available in Horizon
Decisions, Decisions: PC VR or All-on-one
I'm not sure why FRL decided this topic warranted its own session. It seems like a talk more fitting for years past. I suspect new hardware specs for devices yet-to-be announced may be bringing new things for developers to consider and that this talk will dive in a bit there. Perhaps Oculus just felt this session worthwhile for the newcomers to VR development.
Designing Live Media Experiences for Social VR
It will be interesting to see the overlap between this session and Nate Barsetti's session (Creating Live Performance in Social VR). Both Nate and the presenter of this session, Osebo Akhigbe are on the new FRL Venue's team. Osebo's role is the product design lead, where as Barsetti's is production and management.
So I suspect this session to be approaching Venues (and possibly Horizon) commercial content creation from an artistic/creative perspective. Nate's session will probably be more about the success stories that have come by promoters utilizing Venues for their events and the process that goes into that. I may be wrong, but it's always fun to speculate these things. I imagine both sessions will be crafted to help market Venues, Venues is a great platform that in my opinion continues to be under utilized.
We also now have confirmation that the new Venues is indeed using Horizon avatars and the new Venues app can be thought of an an extension of Horizon. Regarding that, this discussion may dive into best practices for creating an app that, like Venues utilizes Horizon avatars and links directly into the Horizon meta-verse. I suspect there will be a curation required to get a direct portal from the Horizon meta-verse into your app. and perhaps we'll learn more about that.
Diverse Voices: Increasing Diversity and Accessibility in Development
Facebook has invested much in consideration of making VR a welcoming experience for everyone. When I attended Oculus LaunchPad in 2019 there were several sessions focused on the subject of accessibility and the subject of diversity came up often as well. An underlining theme with both accessibility and diversity is developer responsibility in consideration of the audience. I find this area of research fascinating and I'm always looking for new recommendations to make VR experiences more inclusive.
Enabling Influencers and Sharing
It's 2020 and on-line influencers can make or break a marketing strategy. Virtual Reality continues to have a PR problem. What's experienced inside the headset can not be conveyed on a 2D screen. From the description I expect this session to share some new ideas on how to enable influencers to make the most of 2D video content to represent VR and thus help market the titles they choose to endorse. This session is marked for developers and well as influencers and "all creators" (so aspiring influencers as well). I imagine we'll also get some tips for developers on how to create compelling content to share with infleuncers.
Extending Reality with Spark AR
While much of the Oculus developer crowd are all about VR, AR filters are being used by everyone across various mobile phone platforms. This isn't the first year Spark AR sessions have been on the agenda for Connect, but in the past year AR filters have continued to grow in popularity and Spark AR Studio allows AR filter authoring and publishing across several of the Facebook owned social platforms.
I suspect we'll see a new version of Spark AR Studio launch with more features, likely enable full application development as Facebook continues to prime Spark AR Studio to be the go-to development tool for their AR glasses products which will be introduced in either 2021 or 2022.
How Developers and ISVs are Accelerating VR Adoption in the Enterprise
I expect this to be another marketing focused session. That's not a bad thing, those of us trying to sell professional Enterprise VR services are looking for all the information we can find on what's working and what's not working. It's great to see a few Oculus for Business focused sessions in this years lineup. As an ISV business partner, thse are the sessions that I'm personally looking most forward to
- Mostly positive statements regarding the Facebook Reality Labs restructuring
- The usual retrospective on previous year and Oculus's accomplishments
- Formal hand off the CTO position.
Carmack is now acting as Consulting CTO to Facebook Reality Labs, but the restructuring provides a good opportunity for him to make an exit if the time is right for him to do so. I believe this possible because
1.) Carmack's interest seems to have shifted away from XR
2.) Following acquisition usually the old guard transition and move on to new opportunities.
Possible but unlikely
- Another eulogy, this time for the Oculus Go.
Mark Zuckerberg will give his annual talk.
Expected talking points
- Brief discussion of the Facebook Reality Labs restructuring/rebranding
- Talk of the success of Oculus Quest (we may even get numbers)
- Brief talk about the Oculus Go retirement
- Announcement: New new lower cost 6DOF all-in-one mobile headset with updated spec
- Announcement: Replacement for and retirement of first gen Oculus Quest with updated spec
- Announcement: Facebook Horizon enters open beta for everyone
- Announcement: Oculus Link comes out of beta
- Announcement: Alternative Publishing path for Quest Developers
In addition to the official curated Oculus Store, FRL has already revealed a new more relaxed publishing model is coming along with details
- Talk to address some of the action points Facebook is taking to address recent controversy
in general and perhaps in context to Facebook Reality Labs projects
- Update on FRL AR products still in the works
- Announcement for Rift S successor to launch in 2021
Speculated to be an high-end all-in-one unit with wireless Oculus Link capabilities
- Oct-Nov 2020 Launch date announcement for new Oculus VR headset
Possible but unlikely
- Announcement of first FRL AR product to launch in 2021
- Preview of the new FRL OS and/or speculated FRL Game Engine Editor