Virtual reality (VR) headsets offer new sensations: the impression of teleporting into another world, in which it is sometimes possible to move and interact with your environment. Since their commercialization, which has been booming since 2016, films, video games and other “experiments” have been trying to make the most of the potential of this new technology. To the long list of interested companies, a major player has just been added: Facebook, which has owned the Oculus VR company since 2014, at the origin of the Rift headset.
On April 18, Mark Zuckerberg’s company launched a social VR application, Facebook Spaces. Connected to the social network, it allows four friends to meet in a virtual space, where each is materialized in the form of an avatar with a “cartoon” look. Users can chat naturally and, thanks to special controllers, interact with their environment: by grabbing objects, drawing, showing photos to their friends … even using a selfie stick to take a picture of themselves in this virtual universe.
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Beyond the gadget aspect, the result is impressive. The fluidity of the device is such that the exchange is easy, as if the friends in question were in the same room. A sense of presence that goes far beyond the already existing technologies whose ambition is to abolish distances, such as Skype.
The map of normality
This concept evokes the great era of Second Life, an online platform very popular a decade ago, where Internet users dreamed of a second life: like it, it forcefully relaunches the old cyberpunk fantasy of a digital double evolving in a parallel reality of pixels. However, there is a size difference between the two. Whereas, in Second Life, Internet users made avatars for themselves, often a thousand miles away from their real person, which they made evolve in extraordinary universes, Facebook Spaces plays the card of normality. Impose it, even. The user’s avatar is thus created automatically from one of his Facebook photos, in order to be as similar as possible; the user can customize it, but without any exuberance. As for the universe where Spaces transports the Internet user by default, it is a park that could not be more banal, populated by walkers accompanied by their dog.
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