At an OC6 event in San Jose, CA, on September 25, 2019, Facebook made a huge announcement that will surely shake up the virtual reality community. They announced that in 2020, their new Facebook Horizon social virtual reality world would be coming to the Oculus Quest and Rift platforms. Much like Facebooks world-renown social media platform, Horizons goal is to bring people together to engage, connect, and share experiences. Facebook was successfully able to bring the world together via social media over a decade ago. However, many virtual reality enthusiasts are wondering if will they be able to do the same with social virtual reality as well.
The promotional YouTube video provides insight into what can be expected in Horizons completely virtual world. This includes a variety of virtual public spaces filled with avatars interacting. Facebook also provides a world overview, saying that users will be able to fully customize their avatars physical (virtual) appearance, allowing users to express their unique individuality. But physical (virtual) appearance isnt the only thing that is customizable according to the tech giant. In Horizon, users can build their own worlds, landscapes, and objects. Also, users will be able to access other environments created and customized by other users.
With the closed beta anticipated to launch in early 2020, it is expected that Facebook will want to collect as much behavioral and security data prior to a full launch of Horizon to the public. Facebook is likely looking to cash in on their Oculus technology and is banking that advertisers will quickly find their way into Horizons virtual world. Likely, leveraging it as another marketing channel to reach potential customers. Although Facebook is going all-in with Horizon, the VR industry is currently competing with other gaming niches to capture the attention of the millions of gamers around the planet. Also, accessing Horizons virtual world requires the user to have an Oculus headset, which depending on the model can cost anywhere between $399-$499.
After the rise of social media, the next logical technological advancement to social engagement is virtual reality. VR game and app developers are excited to see that big companies like Facebook are going all-in with social virtual reality platforms like Horizon. One of the big test ahead for Horizon and the VR industry, in general, is how to get the Oculus headset to more users. External hardware has always been a challenging obstacle to overcome for tech companies. If Facebook can somehow make VR headsets more affordable and as valuable to a user as a mobile phone, then Horizon could very well be the next frontier for human exploration.