Facebook released Spaces last week — a virtual reality social experience that lets you meet up with friends, make video calls and take selfies in VR. The app is exclusive to the Oculus Rift but the HTC Vive is about to get a similar experience of its own.
Today, Vive is announcing that it will be launching an integration that allows users to communicate with friends both in and out of VR through WeChat.
Through the integration, users will be able to create an avatar using selfies, receive WeChat messages in VR and respond to their friends without ever taking off the headset. You can also invite friends to join you in VR environments where you’ll have a digital selfie stick for taking and publishing pictures directly to your WeChat account. Sound familiar?
This functionality is very similar to that of Facebook Spaces. We now have two social VR experiences restricted to two separate social networks on two different platforms. Facebook has stated that it will “ideally” be bringing spaces to other headsets like the Vive in the future. The Vive WeChat integration was created by a third party company called ObEN which has not yet given word on any such compatibility updates.
ObEN was a member of the first Vive X class. Vive X is HTC’s in-house startup incubator that has given rise to notable VR companies such as TPCast. ObEN’s focus is on creating the avatars and interactions seen in the WeChat integration. For example, it created a custom voice-to-text program that allows in-VR users to reply to outside text messages by holding a Vive controller to their mouth. ObEN also built the avatar creation system.
WeChat doesn’t have the most notable reputation here in the west, but its popularity overseas is massive. At last count, WeChat had over 1 billion registered accounts with around 800 million daily active users. Most of this activity is happening in China where the app is known as Weixin. By integrating directly with WeChat, Vive aims to further cement a significant presence in the Chinese market.
According to HTC, ObEN’s WeChat integration for Vive will be available “later this year” via Viveport.