Virtual reality isn’t just a futuristic technology and VR social networking is proving that point. With social media being such an important staple for many people, it only serves to reason that VR technology should have a place on social networks. From special apps to more affordable gear, VR might become just as common as Facebook in the near future.
A Look At VR Social Networking Apps
Social media is fun, but wouldn’t it be better if it felt more real? VR social networking apps are working to make hanging out together in the digital space a little more realistic than text-based posts, memes, and random news stories.
Facebook is well-known for being a trend-setting network and with Oculus Rooms, friends are able to hang out together in a virtual room to watch TV, play games, or just talk. It’s a new way for people who are miles apart to feel like they’re actually in the same room together. The app was released in December 2016 on Samsung’s Gear VR and will release on Oculus Rift sometime in 2017.
Using the app is as simple selecting the people you want to join a “party” and choosing Start a Party within Oculus Home. The virtual rooms look like apartments and you’re able to watch TV and videos or play multi-player VR games. Everyone has their own 3D avatar to create a more realistic experience. In March 2017, Oculus Rooms added even more content, including 360 videos. Facebook Livestreaming is even available from within the app.
Of course, Oculus Rooms isn’t the only VR social networking app. You can meet new people or just interact with people you do know on active VR social communities, such as:
- vTime – Available on most VR platforms, interact in numerous settings, meet new people from all over the world
- AltspaceVR – Available on most VR platforms, more cartoon-style graphics, attend free live events and interact virtually with real celebrities, play over 30 different activities, interact with people worldwide day and night
- Bigscreen VR – Currently in beta, available on limited platforms, play games and watch TV on virtual big screen TVs, host game parties, meet new people, host corporate meetings
- RecRoom – Wii style avatars, interact with others as you play fun recreational games like paintball and charades, available on HTC Vive and Oculus Touch
While these are some of the most active VR social networking communities, they represent just the beginning of VR in a social setting. It’s a new immersive experience for interacting with friends, family, and even strangers.
Snapchat and Pokémon GO Lead the Way
Pokémon GO took the world by storm with augmented reality gaming. Players were able to interact with the real-world while still hunting for virtual Pokémon. Of course, this wasn’t a solitary mobile game. People could interact with each other, train in virtual gyms together, and much more. It was the beginning of adding a VR aspect to social networking.
Of course, Snapchat also helped introduce a blended world of VR and reality. With filters that interact in real-time to a person’s face and movements, it was the perfect combination of the virtual and social networking.
While both examples deal more with augmented reality, which places virtual aspects over a person’s real environment, they also represent the gradual trend towards VR social networking. It’s more fun and interactive to bring the real and digital worlds together, as the popularity of both Pokémon GO and Snapchat have proven.
For those who aren’t ready for a full VR experience, augmented reality apps are the ideal middle ground. With free apps available on smartphones, they don’t require extra equipment, which is always a plus. However, VR gear is starting to become more affordable, which could lead to a faster rise of VR social networking.
Buying VR Gear
To take advantage of VR social networking apps, you’ll need a VR headset. The only problem is those headsets aren’t exactly cheap. A quick look at the top three VR headsets on Pocket-Lint show prices ranging from $599 to $799. However, if you look closer, you might see that headsets are starting to become much more affordable.
For instance, the Samsung Gear VR works with Samsung smartphones. Since many people already have a smartphone, it’s cheaper to buy a VR headset that works along with the phone. The Gear VR is just $95. If you already have a compatible Samsung phone, it’s much cheaper than the $599 HTC Vive.
Of course, Samsung really wants to push the trend towards virtual reality. This is why Samsung is bundling the Gear VR and a controller with all Galaxy S8 pre-orders. If you’re interested in trying the Gear VR for yourself, now is probably the most affordable time.
Google also offers more affordable options that work with compatible smartphones. Google Daydream View and Google Cardboard are both under $100. They’re considered introductory VR headsets, but they’re a more budget friendly option if you’re not sure if VR is right for you.
The Future of VR Social Networking
VR technology in general has been gaining ground over the last several years. With millions already living on social networks, it’s only natural that this is the area where VR has the most potential to take off in earnest. From multi-player gaming to getting friends together to binge watch Netflix, the future of VR social networking is already here and it’s only going to continue to advance.
As headsets become more accessible and more apps are developed, the trend will likely grow. The digital world will suddenly make real world distances seem insignificant as people are able to virtually interact in real-time. How quickly the trend will grow is yet to be seen, but it’s impossible to deny that it’s already a popular trend.