Who wants to hang out with strangers in VR? That was the first question I asked myself when Oculus unveiled Facebook Horizon last year. It’s an evolution of the company’s previous social VR efforts, Rooms, Spaces and Venues, with a far grander scale.
Horizon isn’t just a place to gather with your friends, it’s a large-scale environment where you can wander, chat with people you don’t know, and hop into a variety of virtual rooms, from game shows to theme park festivities. Even more intriguing: All of those experiences are built within Horizon, and you can also construct your own areas together with friends.
At first, Horizon seemed like yet another crazy experiment from Facebook, leveraging its social strength and limitless resources to build the “ultimate” social VR experience. Given the niche market for VR, though, it was hard to tell how useful Horizon would actually be.
It sounded cool, but not necessarily essential (which is where I’ve come down on a lot of Facebook’s social VR swings). But now that we’re living in a very different world, one where we can’t easily visit friends and family, and casual social experiences are limited to cautious grocery runs, Horizon may have a genuine purpose.
Today, Facebook is announcing that it’s opening up Horizon to more beta testers from its waitlist.
And its unveiling several environments from VR creators: “Deep Sleep” from Liam McKill, a science fiction space thriller; Sunny Ammerman’s “Sunny’s Place,” a high-end apartment recreation; “H.A.T. Jungle Adventure” by Clint Ferguson; and the fantasy adventure “Alien Catacombs” by Micah Allen.
Despite being so different, each experience was created solely using the tools within Horizon, which is a sign of how versatile they are.
After exploring Horizon for a bit with an Oculus Quest, alongside a friendly Facebook tour guide, it’s clear that it has far more potential than the company’s previous forays into social VR.
Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms were far too limited, and Venues was only useful if there were events you actually wanted to sit through. But Horizon has far greater ambitions: It could end up being the first VR metaverse that’s close to Ready Player One’s OASIS.