Facebook today announced it’s building its own Ready Player One Oasis. Facebook Horizon is a virtual reality sandbox universe where you can build your own environments and games, socialize with friends, and more.
Launching in 2020, Facebook Horizon will allow users to design their own diverse avatars and hop between virtual locales through portals called Telepods, watch movies and consume other media with friends, and play multiplayer games together like Wing Strikers. It will also include human guides, known as Horizon Locals, who can give users assistance and protect their safety in the VR world so trolls can’t run rampant. Users interested in early access can apply for the beta here.
As part of the launch, Facebook will shut down its existing social VR experiences Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms on October 25th, leaving a bit of a gap until Horizon launches. Oculus Rooms debuted in 2016 as your decoratable private VR apartment, while Spaces first launched in 2017 to let users chat, watch movies, and take VR selfies with friends. But both felt more like lobby waiting rooms with a few social features that were merely meant as a preamble to full-fledged VR games. In contrast, Horizon is designed to be a destination not a novelty, where users could spend tons of time.
Facebook Horizon will start centralized around a town square. From there, users will be able to use the Horizon World Builder to create gaming arenas, vacation chillspots, and activities to fill them without the need to know how to code. Horizon Locals will wander these locals to answer questions or aid users if they’re having technical or safety issues.
Facebook details more of its Horizon safety features on its “Citizenship” page that explains that “As citizens of Facebook Horizon, it is all of our responsibility to create a culture that’s respectful and comfortable . . . A Horizon citizen is friendly, inclusive, and curious.” If things get overwhelming, you can tap a shield button to pause and dip into a private space. Users can define their personal space boundaries so no one can get in their face or appear to touch them. And traditional tools like muting, blocking, and reporting will all be available. It’s smart that Facebook outlined the community tone and defined these protections.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Horizon today at the Oculus Connect 6 conference in San Jose. He discussed how “Horizon is going to have this property where it just expands and gets better” as Facebook and the community build more experiences for the VR sandbox.