Many believe that Virtual Reality is innately a single player experience. After all, you are putting on a headset and cutting yourself off from the rest of the world. Oculus does not seem to share this belief, however. Jason Rubin, the head of content at Oculus recently spoke to the press association about the future of VR. He believes that VR will be dominated by its ability to recreate social encounters.
VR’s social capabilities
Rubin, who was also one of the co-founders of Naughty Dog of Uncharted fame, does not say that gaming will not feature at all in VR future. However, he is adamant that it is the social capabilities that will drive demand in the future. “Oculus is Facebook, and Facebook believes first and foremost in social interaction – that’s what the company is about,” Rubin says. ““Obviously Mark (Zuckerberg) has a vision for bringing social into VR – he believes in it as a social tool – and hands are the beginning of that.” Here, Rubin is making reference to the touch controllers that Oculus are going to release soon.
Having virtual hands to look at goes a long way towards making VR experiences more believable. It’s what gave the Vive it’s competitive advantage over the Rift when it launched. Rubin goes on to talk about the next step after introducing hands into VR. “In the long run, facial expression tracking and all these other things become more and more important but for now just being in a space with someone virtually and being able to reach out, shake their hand and high five opens up a different directness in interaction that has not been enabled before.
“Fundamentally, Facebook is not in this for an entertainment device, That’s a great part of VR and we’re really excited about the games we’re launching. We’re excited about the long-term opportunities in film and video. They’re incredibly important, just as they are in a mobile phone. But ultimately the social aspect of it is what’s going to make VR pass the gaming console scale and go to the scale of a mobile phone or the scale of a television, where everybody needs one of these devices in their lives because that’s just what you do.”
Rubin’s comments in perspective
Oculus is not the only company that is looking into the social aspect of Virtual Reality, although they have been the most vocal. During the Oculus Connect 3 Conference, social interactions was the name of game for most announcements. However, Google’s Daydream labs have been experimenting with social interations in VR for the last year. Likewise, the HTC Vive is recieving social VR support from AltspaceVR.
With everyone working on some aspect of social interactions within VR, Rubin might have a point. Whilst VR gaming hasn’t yet reached its full potential, it’s the completely unprecedented discoveries that will make or break VR as a platform.