In 2016, Facebook demonstrated a new virtual reality chat and meetings app. It used cartoon-like avatars that you could customize to look like yourself, so you could talk with friends and even engage in some fun VR activities. Today, that demo turned into a real app. Facebook, as part of its F8 developer conference, launched the beta version of Facebook Spaces today for the Oculus Rift headset.
Facebook Spaces starts out by letting you customize your avatar, via your own Facebook photos. After it creates your cartoon look, you can customize it even more by changing its eye color, hairstyle, facial features and more until you are happy with how it looks. Then all you have to do is get your avatar into the new Facebook Spaces app, and invite some of your Facebook friends to join you.
Once in your virtual meeting space, you and your friends can just chat with each other, or view Facebook-posted photos and 360-degree images in the space. You also have the option to draw in the air with a virtual marker, so you can show doodles to your friends. If you have another friend in the real world that’s connected via Facebook Messenger, you can call and chat with them, via a window that pops into your virtual meeting place. You can even take virtual selfies of your avatars with a selfie stick in the meeting room.
Facebook says that users will be in full control of their virtual Spaces, with the ability to pause a meeting and go into a “quiet space” if they need a break. You can also choose to mute or even remove any of your avatar friends from the meeting room. Since this is a beta release, users can expect to see some bugs pop up before the app ditches that label. Users can also expect to see more features added to the app in the coming months.
Facebook said that the Spaces app will be released for other platforms in the future, but didn’t offer any specifics. However, it’s likely that one of them could be the Samsung Gear VR headset, which uses Oculus technology and software. If that’s indeed the case, it could open up VR to a whole new audience.