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Mark Zuckerberg's virtual reality demo [video] (facebook.com)
286 points by vyrotek on Oct 7, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 140 comments



I've had a course about social media last year (analyses of communication via social media, not the marketing kind) that talked a lot about the problems with online human-human communication and how VR might be able to solve these problems.

Physical space has social meanings. We use space to structure how we start conversations, to show our engagement with our partner, to show our openness to engage with others. Think of the formations you form at parties, and how you know as outsider if you can join a conversation or not.

You also have the important of gaze. Eye gaze is not only an outward expression of an emotion, it is used as a communicative device – as a tool to interact with others. People turn towards to each other to make eye contact and initiate a conversation.

Both space and gaze have so far been missing in online social media. This is the positive value for better communication you add to social media with VR. It's very exciting to see this development already going so fast.

It saddens me though that it seems Facebook is the company making the first steps into this future. This cynic in me says Facebook only develops this to have more ways to manipulate people in seeing ads and other forms of commercial persuasive communication. Tupperware parties 2.0.


"You also have the important of gaze. Eye gaze is not only an outward expression of an emotion, it is used as a communicative device – as a tool to interact with others. People turn towards to each other to make eye contact and initiate a conversation."

It will be interesting to see physical body cues (or body language) become "photoshopped", as it were.

At the most basic level, one could simply record oneself saying something really genuine and honest, and then replay the resulting body language when lying to someone in VR.

Many more subtle body cues could also be either recorded/replayed or simulated.

In the physical world people often seek to look in to each other's eyes to determine whether the other person is lying or has something to hide. In VR, of course, what the eyes express will be entirely under the conscious control of their operator.

It will be interesting to see how human interaction in VR changes as a result of these expanded possibilities, which will not be limited by the muscles of the human face, or even the limits of human shape, or physics.

Many new ways of expression are likely to occur in VR in the future. One could argue that this is really not that new, as such things are possible in, say, Second Life, or many MMORPGs today, or even that things like the use of emoticons in text chats are an early instance of this. But I expect VR has the potential to take this to the next level, and seeing where that leads in one or two hundred years would be pretty interesting.


You're not a cynic, that's literally their business.


Ad revenue and tricking others into thinking that all that data is inherently valuable.

Don't forget that last part.


Tell that to an app developer that pays $2-$5 per install of their app through Facebook. You may think your data isn't valuable, but I guarantee you that many many peoples data is very valuable to Advertisers.


You could say the same about billboards, newspaper full page ads, and just about anything!


Well they're not the only ones trying towards this. See what we're doing at Mimesys by using depth cams to stream people in 3D in the world. See the vision we have for Skype in AR in a few years : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P37DVcPHGNY I agree with you that the importance of physical space is something we realize more and more every day building Mimesys ; that would where VR could lead to new representations of information (see for instance Bret Victor's insights on the topic : https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fvimeo.com%2F115...) There will be ways to collaborate and share information, even remotely, that will go far beyond the casual whiteboard


One aspect, and I sure many already realize this, is it seems FAR more simple and natural to be able to communicate via text/chat/forums etc when you have had physical interactions with them outside the computer and are already comfortable talking to one another - aside from groups of friends who have never met. It have spent a great deal of time doing something together of common interests...

Like gaming together or sharing whatever on IRC or Reddit or some such.

If you're trying to randomly talk to a new person with not a common-ground of topic interest it's easy to see how visual cues and body language feel like they are truly lacking.

Also the problem with VR is on any other platform I'm not consuming my entire field of view and immersing myself... so I can't keep a periferal view of my child to make sure she doesn't help her self to yet another yogurt in the fridge among the the many other thousand of small perceptions we need to make about our environment around us....


For all of us who frequently have to attend conf calls... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_tiqlBFjbk

Indeed, I think it's very what is lacking (online empathy) and I am glad that VR is intended to address some of the challenges we currently have with online communication.


Main problem is multiple people starting to talk at once. VR could help but also school system where you have to signal if you want to talk and the head of the meeting gives you the voice could help.

Surprisingly there's no real pressure to introduce any solution


I wonder about how eye contact will function in VR - cameras inside the goggles tracking eye direction? I suspect that eye contact is the kind of problem without a lot of room for error. Get it only slightly wrong and the effect could be very disconcerting.

I'd bet on cartoonish, stylized avatars being the most successful (at least initially). Cartoons work for a reason, we're very good at taking a cue and filling in the blanks. But the more information an image carries the deeper you go into the uncanny valley. For realistic VR avatars to catch on, they'd need to be nearly perfect.


Michael Abrash gave a great talk later in the presentation about future directions in VR. He talked about retina tracking in the context of foveated rendering, which he said has a higher accuracy requirement than avatar eye direction. He seemed confident we'll get there.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Mv_eIRv1Vk4


I agree with everything you've said, including the negative sentiment towards Facebook, but they aren't the first. There are actually several social VR apps out and/or in the works right now, perhaps the most popular of which is AltspaceVR.


Placing a video call from the outside world into VR is pretty amazing.

Besides that, you can do many of the things demoed even now on AltspaceVR. I tested it out for a few nights, and turns out hanging around in an interactive VR space with random strangers is ruined by trolls and people constantly quitting and joining. We never got successfully through an entire game of "Cards Against Humanity".

Another interesting one was vTime, which focuses more on chatting. You can move your head around and sit around virtual spaces with others, but you cannot move. That felt much like grabbing coffee in real life with someone and we got into deeper conversations this way. I would rate it as perhaps the most interesting experience I had before selling my Oculus to wait another year or two to see things improve.


Being able to place a video call from the outside world into VR is pretty amazing.

Youtube and twitch are capable of doing the conference call equivalent, streaming live video of content that doesn't actually exist, such as a video game, to a video receiving device. The ability to dynamically create live video is more than a few years old, even in live chat systems, from the capability to alter the background behind you while you video chat, to being able to wear virtual hats.

There's a lot in here that is interesting, but so much of it is a different form factor and UI/UX on technology that already exists.


You're saying it's just a user experience shift, but that's exactly what the comment you're responding to is saying. User experience changes can be earth-shattering.


Yes, I said there's a lot here that is interesting, and I think the actual interesting stuff was seriously downplayed. I don't find the stuff that was presented as "earth-shattering". The ability to show a moving video in a 2d square in a 3d environment is as old as hardware accelerated first person shooters.

We saw swimming among sharks and walking on Mars, both having potential for highly informative and educational experiences. The rhetoric wasn't about how much richer viewing Mars is interactively vs with flat, composite panoramas. The Mars bit was about ~12 seconds with talk about how it was desolate and they wouldn't want to live there… quick, get us out and here and lets move on to… the Facebook offices (a more uninspired location for Zuckerberg to choose I can not imagine). Oh, let's play a card game and let's draw a sword for sword fights! The ability to draw in midair and interact with the thing drawn is the real interesting stuff, stuff that we haven't been able to do before, and this was a demo that said, to me, "Farmville is coming to virtual reality".

Where was showing us things we can't currently, easily do without virtual reality? The live walk through of a building yet to be built? The facilities engineer working with plumbers and electricians on a live, interactive 3d model of a building? The interior designer doing interactive, full-size test fits of furniture? The student walking on the surface of other planets for study prep? The inclusiveness and team building of a remote team working in the same virtual space (this was mentioned briefly in the face expressions portion)? The ability to create and dynamically reconfigure complex user interfaces that would be otherwise impossible to create in reality? Leveraging the facial expressions to read people while playing poker would have been more interesting and a step above current on-line poker playing, more so than "look, we can throw around these cards".

Most of this bit looked like it was scripted. It could have been scripted better to showcase actual advances VR enables, kept the "ooh ahh", maintained the conversational tone and gotten rid of the mundane stuff. I don't think "placing a video call from the outside world into VR" is "pretty amazing".


I remember back when Skype first launched. Very few of us were using it (few hundred, maybe a thousand?). Many of us were just calling people randomly, myself included. Trolls weren't even a thing yet thank god, and all of us early adopters were very pleasant with each other.


Oh man I have great memories of that. I made friends with some girl in California and we spent hours talking to an old man in South Africa who had hunted lions when he was younger! It really made the world feel small and we felt special. It's really hard to find connections like that. Spending a little bit of time in AltspaceVR did sort of feel like this. Within a few minutes I was talking to some kid about his life and how he was feeling that day. I hope we can preserve these anonymous experiences without trolls ruining everything. In Second Life there was gating and banning (so there would be a private owned 'night club' that you could be kicked out of, you'd literally be launched away) which seemed fairly effective. 100% public spaces with no policing don't seem to work online, unfortunately.


I tested it out for a few nights, and turns out hanging around in an interactive VR space with random strangers is ruined by trolls and people constantly quitting and joining.

I can't help but wonder what the revelations about Palmer Lucky's ties to racist "shitposting" brigades bode for the future of collaborative VR spaces. I guess at least this time we know we're wading into a cesspool, all utopian forecasting aside.


Is there some relationship between technology and the people who make it that isn't evident to normal senses? Perhaps something that would carry this taint you call out? I don't find myself noticing the politics of the people who make the things I use, but I admit to having a low amount of worry for moral standing.


No, quite the contrary. I think most technology is just an amoral multiplier of its users' intentions. But does the social and moral context in which it's created hold some predictive power about how it will be used? I think so. We can look back at the industrial revolution and see that, occuring in a time of extreme tribalism, political upheaval, and acceptability of violence, its use in war and genocide was sure to be horrific.

Before, we needed historians to tie together all the disparate threads of the record to make sense of these kinds of things, with all the time and work that entailed. But in an our era, where so much of life is lived in public, digital spaces, the time between the message and what it telegraphs is much shorter, and maybe more clear.


Does anyone remember Playstation Home. A social 3D environment with in-world purchases, in-world movies, etc.? The experience were similar. People discovery was hard.


Yes, it was really fun, just running around the square and having conversations with strangers. I loved my Playstation 3, but Sony took away all the things I loved about it, one-by-one:

1. Folding at home. I loved letting it run and getting points and looking at the cool night time map of the world with all the yellow dots showing others running Folding at home. I felt like part of something!

2. Playstation Home went away

3. The ability to install Linux went away. There's a class action lawsuit, if I join I could get $7. Wheee.

4. They sent a firmware update that bricked it. I was never able to recover it.


I've had a great time playing with groups in BigScreen (Beta). I spent three hours playing with a free to plat smash bros style game within big screen beta. It felt like I was back in college but my roommates were from Estonia, England, and Michigan.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/457550/

Try it out. The rooms are smaller so less people jumping in and out.


The whole demonstration seemed very synthetic and not really that impressive to be honest (The position detection for hands seemed a bit low res, facial expressions seemed like something out of a 2006 webcam to cartoon-avatar app.


They are working with what they have. There are no face cameras or anything like that in Oculus Rift, so the expressions are literally "gestures", from what I've read. You raise your hands, your avatar is "happy", you wave your head, your avatar is "sad" etc.

This should change in next generations of VR helmets.


Not in Oculus in the demo, but there is this Veeso [1] with additional cam for face tracking.

[1] http://www.veeso.com/


AltspaceVR can do hands with LEAP Motion, yet weirdly feels way less natural than the type of control you get with VIVE controllers.

Purely optical tracking just doesn't seem do it for now, since there are all types of occlusions happening. Maybe something like LEAP with multiple sensors in the room that are able to reconstruct the whole skeletal model up to digits and facial expression (minus eyes, which obviously have to be captured in headset if needed). Currently that is possible with the perception neuron, which is not really fit for casual use based on price (+ USD 1500) and setup time.

http://altvr.com/full-body-mocap-in-vr/


I did not get it, what is the use case for having all these things? I can take a selfi of my virtual me and share it to facebook? Is this something that customers would want to do?


Conference calls. Team Meetings. Seeing your family when travelings. Playing games with kids. Lots of use cases. Live concerts. FB 3.0. Online Gaming. Virtual Amusement Parks. Doctor Visits. Online Shopping.


These are all good examples for video-wall style high-def setups for videoconferencing. Which also has some advantages, like being socially much more acceptable in a workplace, being able to accommodate multiple players with one device, 0 putting-it on delay etc. It's less fun for such experiences as the Virtual Amusement Park, sure.

I expect to see such high-def video-wall setups achieve market penetration faster than 3D headsets. It's "worse is better" all over again.


You can't play games in VR together with a videoconferencing system.


I think two major things social VR and this demo highlight:

1) The amount of things you can do in VR is more expansive than any medium before. Video conferences for the most part is used to catch up or transfer information faster (or at least that's how I use it, to catch up with friends/business who are far away). However, it's tougher to use video chats to build NEW experiences, and I can only really think of Google Hangouts and playing something like WarLight/editing a doc that does that. Humans for the most part build better relationships when both parties have shared experiences, and in VR you can actually do a lot of things that you could in real life. This is why it's so different from just "videoconferencing"

2) It finds a balance in anonymity and not having to commit 100% to a conversation. For example, when you video conference you have to pay more attention/be more aware of how you're acting, which explains why many times we choose to have text convos rather than just calling the other person. In social VR you're just an avatar so you don't have to care as much about your appearance/interaction/subtle facial expressions etc. The outward behavioral bar is lower so you can relax and enjoy the environment even more.

VR is a powerful medium because it addresses the above two points - you don't have to be as concerned about your appearance/interaction when you're an avatar AND you can actually do more tangible things in VR to actually BUILD better relationships.


God, how I miss David Foster Wallace...

On the Rise and Fall of the Videophone:

> And the videophonic stress was even worse if you were at all vain. I.e. if you worried at all about how you looked. As in to other people. Which all kidding aside who doesn’t. Good old aural telephone calls could be fielded without makeup, toupee, surgical prostheses, etc. Even without clothes, if that sort of thing rattled your saber. But for the image-conscious, there was of course no such answer-as-you-are informality about visual-video telephone calls, which consumers began to see were less like having the good old phone ring than having the doorbell ring and having to throw on clothes and attach prostheses and do hair- checks in the foyer mirror before answering the door.

> ...

> The proposed solution to what the telecommunications industry’s psychological consultants termed Video-Physiognomic Dysphoria (or VPD) was, of course, the advent of High-Definition Masking; and in fact it was those entrepreneurs who gravitated toward the production of high-definition videophonic imaging and then outright masks who got in and out of the short-lived videophonic era with their shirts plus solid additional nets.

Full Excerpt from Infinite Jest: http://declineofscarcity.com/?page_id=2527


Thanks for sharing this. It's always great to reread DFW. He had such extraordinary prescience about so many things.

Another bit of gold from that excerpt:

> First there’s some sort of terrific, sci-fi-like advance in consumer tech — like from aural to video phoning — which advance always, however, has certain un- foreseen disadvantages for the consumer; and then but the market-niches created by those disadvantages — like people’s stressfully vain repulsion at their own videophonic appearance — are ingeniously filled via sheer entrepreneurial verve; and yet the very advantages of these ingenious disadvantage-compensations seem all too often to undercut the original high-tech advance, resulting in consumer-recidivism and curve-closure and massive shirt-loss for precipitant investors. In the present case, the stress- and-vanity-compensations’ own evolution saw video-callers rejecting first their own faces and then even their own heavily masked and enhanced physical likenesses and finally covering the video-cameras altogether and transmitting attractively stylized static Tableaux to one another’s TPs. And, behind these lens-cap dioramas and transmitted Tableaux, callers of course found that they were once again stresslessly invisible, unvainly makeup- and toupeeless and baggy-eyed behind their celebrity-dioramas, once again free — since once again unseen — to doodle, blemish-scan, manicure, crease-check — while on their screen, the attractive, intensely attentive face of the well-appointed celebrity on the other end’s Tableau reassured them that they were the objects of a concentrated attention they themselves didn’t have to exert.


I would suggest the shared experiences and better relationships happen in real life when you commit 100%.

We know that IRL we can be in physical proximity with one another, but perhaps it's the joint commitment to the experience that builds the meaning.

Better relationships probably are built on more commitment, not less.


I agree, but there are different types of commitment. There's commitment in terms of time, energy, emotion, attention, etc.

While VR provides anonymity (taking away some emotional commitment of human expression/emotion), the actual shared experiences you're doing is more powerful than any other medium and is pushing on the multiple other levers of commitment such as time, energy, attention, etc.

So VR is creating better relationships through commitments of multiple type and strength.


Social VR is what second life has been doing for 15 years. I have anecdotally surveyed a few users and none of them was sold on VR. It's fun for the first day, but between being expressionally and physically limited and getting nauseous, none of them found it pleasant enough for long-term use. Virtual worlds are having a rennaisance nowadays, with many new companies springing up. Personally , i am not sold on the future of VR-goggles at all.


Why judge on the limitations of first gen hardware? How many nascent technologies and industries would have been dismissed if we'd done that? Or is it the possibility of creating a fully immersive new medium for creative expression, potentially a new artificial substrate of reality, that doesn't excite you?


uh... We're easily on 3rd-4th gen hardware at this point.

1st gen: Those VR stations that used to be in malls 2nd gen: Shitty headsets you could attach to a genesis/snes 3rd gen: Occulus (you may be considering this first gen?) 4th gen: vive/fove/[Sony/Samsung/Google]VR


Do you think the average mass consumer that is considering purchasing a GearVR cares that _technically_ it's a 4th gen VR product because of the Nintendo Virtual Boy in 1995? I don't think so ...


>I have anecdotally surveyed a few users and none of them was sold on VR.

How long ago was this? VR advances very quickly.


I think VR is as an experience overrated.

Almost daily I do Skype calls most of them are video calls. Most of the times I have several people in the room who still can continue to communicate directly without and technical intermediary. In addition you can write down notifications, doodle, multi-task.

For games, I used to play doom in vr in 1997 and after 5 min the whole looking around thing gets stale and you just want to sit down and relax on the couch/chair. See Wiimote.


In a lot of ways, you're not wrong. I am a huge VR enthusiast and I admit that it's been more than once I've said to myself "Man, I really want to play VR but I just want to sit down" after a long day at work.

Thankfully, for these cases, I've got EVE: Valkyrie, which is a sit-down experience. Looking around is required as you are flying a ship in 6-degrees-of-freedom.

I'm not sure what the solution is.


But imagine if all of your doodle and multi-tasking can be virtual. The promise of VR is you can video conference, multi-task, and doodle with many virtual apps all at once. Or with other people. Of course the problem with that is that paper is often a better medium.


If that will be good or not is a question of the user interface. I regularly sit in multi-nation phone conferences. And while there are many collaboration tools we mainly still use a simple Excel sheet via screen share to track things. Why? This abstraction layer works with most business users. In addition, in Asia internet connectivity over several countries is not good so that is the least expensive communication method in terms of bandwidth.


I think you are shortsighted and unwilling to extrapolate today's VR potential into the (near-ish) future.


Why are there so much negativity? I thought the people here are supposed to be more visionary. We are one step ahead in the future than other people. Avatar with your facial expressions. This is huge and innovative. It will not be limited to just game players or geeks. Common people will be drawn to this.


Well as a long time deliberately non Facebook account holder for many reasons of my own, I can say I found this compelling. Partly because I bought an Oculus dev kit several years ago and was quite impressed with it at even that stage and I'm very excited to seee resources being devoted to a technology I would like to see in common use as soon as possible, especially for these basic productivity tasks.


I hate to admit that I sympathize with the slightly critical comments, I was left with a feeling of "really, that's it?" from the demo. I think it's just a case of managing expectations though, I would have been impressed if this was done by a couple of college kids, but I thought that FB was betting big on VR and was going to wow everyone with something new.

I'm probably just being ignorant and not appreciating the amount of effort that went into the app.


I loved the demo, thought it was well thought out and impressive. However I would not want to use it on a regular basis and cannot see many people being that interested in purchasing a VR setup. I think VR outside of gaming is limited appeal and only AR will offer any mass appeal as long as it is portable and discrete.


Wow, this is great. I wonder when we will have farmville in VR. My friends, family can take care of our virtual farm...


This comment in combination with your username made me laugh way too hard.



So Facebook's take on VR is that it is going to be all about people. I am not seeing their vision but I didn't 'get' Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or even Chat Roulette... I will need some persuasion that this will work for the selfie-obsessed narcissistic world, just wearing a VR headset is not a good look.

I can see how Google's take on VR works, you re-use the phone in a budget way and have apps that make sensible use of the format - games, 3D immersive stuff exhibition tour stuff and other Google goodies that are good toys. Really this brings to life what Google do anyway with StreetView, photosheres and so on, so it makes sense. I can see a large army of casual VR users making occasional use of that stuff. I can also see hi-end gaming going for VR, that makes sense too and seemed the obvious market for the Oculus product. Facebook seem to think they have some special transformative take on that, a bit like how the Wii took the games console out of the teenager's bedroom and put it in the front room for mum to do her fitness training games on. Until we see the product and applications some belief is required and even then I will not be an early adopter. This VR stuff has evolved slightly the 'cardboard' way but the fundamentals have not changed in the last 20 years. The problems have nothing to do with nausea from immersive VR, people probably had the same concerns about the horseless carriage. The problems are more to do with what exactly that use case is that compels people to be wearing VR headsets for hours every day and whether people really do want to block out their sight to wear some immersive headgear. This isn't going to happen on the commute home for a while.


"The problems are more to do with what exactly that use case is that compels people to be wearing VR headsets for hours every day and whether people really do want to block out their sight to wear some immersive headgear. "

I wear mine as much as I can (sadly I don't have hours a day to do it, but I would if i could) VR Gaming is literally just the beginning. As I mentioned in another comment, Onward is a good demonstration of the potential here. Game-play aside, the social aspect feels very different. The game, as an FPS would be very lame, but with the way it handles communication it's a really great experience. Interactions feel more "life like". I'm really excited to see how far it goes.


> So Facebook's take on VR is that it is going to be all about people.

Seing how chat apps are used so much, I think this is brilliant. They really do get social.


It will when we all have driver-less cars. Which is sneaking up faster then I thought it would.


I didn't get how the headset reads the facial expressions.

I also don't see most users designing avatars that look like them. It shouldn't be too hard to do a conversion from a photo.

Also compare it to the PSVR social app:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sK8tMwlZLEM


At SIGGRAPH 2015 there were a couple demonstration booths where groups had stuck sensors and/or cameras to VR googles and used them to render expressions on your avatar's face.

Here's a demo from one of the groups: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgKkEnaaSDc - they used strain gauges inside the goggles to track muscle movement of the upper face, and stuck a camera on a stick hanging off the googles to capture lower face movement.

Here's another one that uses photo-reflective sensors attached to a set of eyeglasses, which can be worn inside a VR headset. For this demo I had to remove my prescription glasses, so it was unfortunately quite hard to say how well it worked! https://vimeo.com/132772990


"the demo's facial expressions were controlled by button presses, not facial analysis"


I'm honestly surprised by that, since it seems like just using a simple webcam to read your expression and pick it that way would be a much more natural choice, and probably the least technologically complex aspect of that entire setup. Though I guess you can't always be in an environment with a webcam pointed at your face... but if you have an Oculus on your head, my guess is a webcam isn't far away.


Except the Oculus is occluding your face.


Not disagreeing with you (because it's definitely not just a simple webcam), but there's been progress in this area:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgKkEnaaSDc


Nice! I hadn't seen this before. Interesting approach to capturing the facial expression. I'd bet the first commercial implementation of something like this will be based on cameras inside the helmet combined with IR illumination, We're going to want those anyway for gaze tracking and it might be that they can do double duty. This is clever, but from a practical standpoint I bet capturing expressions will be easier with cameras.


You can definitely see where this is going. My first thought was the same: 'we need eyetracking for foveated rendering anyway, so we can get realistic eyes for free', and if you can do that, you can track the eyebrows and muscles around the eye (doesn't need great fidelity), and I wonder if that gets you all the way to the rest of the face as well? Can you smile/frown without it tugging on the parts closer to the eyes which the future headsets can observe?


That was an interesting demo. I read on another comment in this thread, that the backgrounds were fake. Let's assume for a moment that they were not. Imagine all of this happening from the perspective of the dog. The dog (replace human to further this exercise) is completely unaware of all this happening around him. Could we in the future have people talking about us, around us and not be aware of it? Think of this interaction again from the perspective of the 4 people (include the video call) who were talking in the room. At one point, i was so engrossed in the main scene, that i forgot that a certain part of the environment was not aware of the main players. This spooked me out - what if in the future, i can't tell which part of my environment is real(aware of me) and which part is not. Inertia i guess. We always get over these humps.


For the time being I would assume you would notice the 360 degree camera making its way through your house.

That is, until we work out using a stable wormhole as the means of observation.


That is true. Or until the camera's get small enough and numerous enough that your environment drowns them. It was still an interesting experience.


The dog would see a big 360 degree camera in front of him and it would presumably light up when it was on to let him know he was part of a background that was being used/viewed by others.

So as long as you don't see any cameras around, you can be pretty sure that you're not part of the background of some weird earnings report that needs to be hosted in times square, at the bottom of the ocean, or inside a volcano.


I love to imagine a serious earning report meeting happening mid-air inside a volcano. 12 people around a table and one writing on a whiteboard.


I think VR is going to be a bit like 3D TV and not really live up to the hype.


Maybe this particular VR application, but you can try a Vive on right now and see for yourself. To me, its extremely compelling.


Last week I was at a VR arcade which had a very good setup of Vives, good floor space, good hardware, instructors, etc. It was my first time with VR, and I spent about half an hour with the different VR experiences.

It was a lot of fun, and I went and grabbed the entire family and forced them to try it too. They all enjoyed it. Very different experience from anything else.

But since then, I have had no desire to go back and do it again. Nor have any of the family members mentioned it (including three boys between 5 and 12 who love gaming). Nothing about the experience was compelling enough to capture my attention in the long term.

VR has great novelty factor, but no killer apps (yet?).


It sounds like having a computer without having the internet in 1997. When they add the social factor and include things like being able to do desktop work, in high fidelity while wearing a lightweight pair of shades, its going to change a lot of things.


Vive is much better than Oculus.


I strongly disagree. The opportunities when this becomes ready for prime time are endless.


Ok lets call it a fad like Video Phones in the late 80s and early 90s? This demo was literally "Skype on your face with cartoons". Where was the innovation? Pretty (pre-recorded) backgrounds?


I've had a lot of fun with the social aspects in OnWard. Just about 10 minutes ago before I left the game, my group was standing in a circle joking around (until the enemy snuck up behind, dropped a grenade killing us in one blow.

VR is an amazing medium for remote social interactions. There's potential here. Not everything has to be about selfies, and self obsession. It's possible for random people to have a good time with each other. The internet makes it possible for you to find another person similar to who YOU are, and VR makes that interaction more personable. It's literally the best of both "Worlds".


Multi-user VR is really, really cool. It seems that Facebook is betting heavily on headset prices coming down (which they will, obviously) which will allow their metaverse to become the de facto virtual hangout space. That two bundo FB shelled out for the acquisition seems like it was a really good deal.


Except that having been addicted to Facebook once and quitting cold turkey about a decade ago, I'll never do Facebook again. To me things like TV (particularly streaming services) is close to a drug in terms of addictiveness. Facebook was too. And this looks even more addictive. I'm sure it will be insanely immersive, and that, my friends, is a serious problem.


Fake it until you make it. Backgrounds are all pre-recorded. Not live! But it's an interesting concept once they manage to get all the scenes live. I still prefer face to face though.


I wondered about that dog on the couch... Still, pretty neat (and, come to think of it, a little less worrying than giving Facebook access to a webcam in my house.)


takes selfie with virtual selfie stick cam and posts it to facebook

"we can do anything we want"

Does anyone know if there are any other demos/applications available?


Why would I do any of this ?

It seemed a bit forced in my opinion.


You're lucky you have all of your friends close to you. Some of my best friends are a 2 hour plane ride away. This would be great (if they could afford it).


I thought the demo was neat, but I don't quite get this -- how is looking at the cartoon avatars your friends chose possibly going to be more personal than (or even nearly as personal as) video chat, which has been freely available for years on every major platform and allows you to see your friends' actual faces with their actual facial expressions? Is it just anticipation of the avatars eventually getting replaced with a full realistic real-time 3D rendering of your body?


Absolutely. There was a research project last year where they uses sensors built into the visor foam and they could reproduce your emotion based on your face movement. Of course we'll eventually all be scanned into the system and at that stage you can decide to use an avatar or your normal face. The real benefit here is social VR. Being able to co-exist in VR to do your work will be ground breaking.


same here, seems like a gimmick, anyone remembers "frebble"?


It is a good idea


Yeah, i thought it was amazing. It's the predecessor to the Metaverse.


"Virtual" being used here quite frequently when there is quite a bit of Hyper-reality influences too.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperreality

Virtual Reality describes the apparatus, and the merging of reality with simulation, or even simulacra of our physical sensoria.

Hyper-reality describes the meta nature of our culture, media, and society. Imagine this: consuming a video of Zuck talking about VR headsets whilst wearing a VR headset, whilst inside Facebook headquarters, all inside your Facebook timeline.


Amazing demo of the interface of the future. One thing I would change is to move the other people's avatars to the background so they don't move around as you look around. It was making me dizzy. They should be fixed to the background but be able to move themselves around in your field of vision by walking around, as they would in reality. Obviously a work in progress, but everything else looked great!


The thing I noticed and nobody else seems to be commenting on is that these virtual realities were actually just 360 videos? Why was nothing actually being produced by a real 3D engine? I thought viewing 360 vids in VR could make people sick because you don't have the sideways motion of the head. I'd expected them to spend their time in actual virtual realities, not QuickTime VRs.


Man that line about Timberlake was forced. And then he made his wife say it too. Hah.

Ok in all seriousness.

We little humans perceive most of our world through spatial interactions. The possibilities to make a world enhancing device are incredible and scare me.

I'm concerned that people will forget how great the real Redwood forest is. Or how great real sex is. Or how meaningful life can be apart from a virtual Reality. I'm afraid that the fake version could be so appealing that I would reject the real and choose to dive into my own Matrix. Many people already play 7 hours per day...what's to stop them from never leaving a more immersive experience?

Like I said, the positive potential to improve science/meetings/remote work/etc is pretty incredible. I don't want to sound like a Debbie downer. But sheesh we need to consider the potential risks to society of a pseudo-reality addiction that is as alluring as VR will be very soon.

Is anyone else concerned?


The vast majority of our human experiences are already imaginary, if you count books, movies, televisions, and even song lyrics (about heartbreak, hope, depression). I think people will always strive for more variety and breadth of experience, and that will always include road trips, hikes, visits to new cities, and whatever else you might be worried about losing...


This is a classic HN contrarian point of view that doesn't address this persons actual concerns.

What you're saying is true, but AR/VR is magnitudes of scale more immersive than any tool or artform human's have had.

You talk about IRL things like trips, hikes, etc - but AR will become so integrated into those experiences that the patina of Reality (which OP is talking about) may very well all but disappear.


Virtual reality is perhaps an unfortunate moniker, because it encourages a dichotomisation of reality into the "virtual" and "real", and conceiving of these as opposing, or at least orthogonal forces. Thought of in this way, virtual reality seems to promise a compelling-but-ultimately-empty facsimile of reality, the ultimate fulfilment of the escapist dream.

Disruptive technologies are often initially viewed from an oppositional mindset, which makes sense, because any disruptive technology will steal time away from the Old Activities that existed before the technology. People who aren't early adopters will naturally focus on the decrease in the time spent on Old Activities.

We saw this oppositional reaction when the internet gained popularity:

* People are spending so much time in cyberspace that they won't know how to effectively navigate the real world

* People are having fantasy cyber-lives instead of spending time in the Real World

* He's seeing someone he met online, he must not know how to interact with Real People

* And so on.

But social networks descended on society in an incredibly short period of time, and worked their way into the furthest corners of our lives. The oppositional mindset gave way to an integrative one, where the notion of a "CyberLife", as distinct from a "life", is simply misplaced- the internet is now simply a part of life, sans prefix and with a lowercase "l", no longer boxed up in the conceptual category of "the Cyber".

There was another motifical recurrence when smartphones entered the fray. The oppositional critiques were voluminous and eloquent:

* We're spending so much time texting we're forgetting how to speak to each other

* Every crack in every interaction is plastered over with the ritualized and mutually fraudulent "notification check", signposting the way to the unravelling of the social fabric..., etc.

* You can find the Real World up there, when you hold your head high, with dignity, and not down there, with your head bowed, staring transfixed at a shining rectangle, face ghost-like, bathed in the soft pearlescent glow of vapidity.

But at some point, the integrative mindset arrived. It's hard to maintain the oppositional mindset when you get off your Uber, arrive at a restaurant that you found on Yelp, and are chatting to your friend on WhatsApp, only to have them sit down in front of you. The handoff between "smartphone life" and "real life" is seamless. Smartphones are woven so deeply into our lives that if you ask someone how their "smartphone life" compares to their "real life", they'll just give you a strange look. Smartphones are just a part of life.

I think VR/AR could go in this direction, as just another arrow in our technological quiver. If we start looking at things like social VR, which has the potential to reshape the way we interact remotely, or how architects are today routinely using VR to demo to clients, it's not impossible to believe that the integrative mindset could eventually overcome the oppositional mindset in terms of how we think about VR.


Excellent--except all your examples of the "oppositional critiques" have happened, and aren't abating. So the concern is well founded. Every day I see people texting, reading, watching videos, and gaming on their smartphones AS THEY ARE DRIVING--navigating traffic, changing lanes, turning, etc. They are so hooked on their devices they're unable (or unwilling) to unplug even while driving a multi-ton death machine amongst other multi-ton death machines.

The truth is that humans have a tendency to be lazy. It's not a simple case of equal substitution; we will happily choose inferior substitutions which require less effort (or expense or time or complexity).

Will people choose to "travel" via VR? Yes. Will this reduce real-life traveling? Absolutely. The sense of having been somewhere will reduce our need to actually GO there.

I this the rise of VR will see many become thoroughly entranced (addicted?) and less productive and even alive than they were previously. We will see society split into two groups: one large, one small. The small group will be comprised of the productive, who limit their entertainment consumption in any medium (but especially VR). This group will be exponentially more affluent than the much larger group. The larger group will be comprised of the numerous people who already consume what is already available through any medium: Netflix, Xbox, cable, internet, tablets, phones, etc. These are the people who (best case scenario) have a full-time job, but they spend every other possible waking hour watching or playing something. More and more of this group are working less and consuming/playing more. And we're not talking about real life here. Just think about World of Warcraft--but on steroids. It's going to be insane how addictive VR will be once the bugs have been ironed out.

In short: I too worry that this is something the human race is not prepared for. I worry that our proclivities dispose us to losing ourselves in it at the expense of our real life and responsibilities.

The truth of the matter is that, anecdotally, I look back over my 38 years and I can see the impact on my life of the digital revolution. I want to do more with my life, but oftentimes the allure of the easy "hit" via Netflix or the internet is more of a draw than spending my free time learning languages, exercising, meditating, working on some of my app ideas, writing, or reading. Instead I choose the cognitively easy "hit" at the expense of my personal development and health.

Think about smartphones and tablets. They can and sometimes are used for meaningful and productive purposes. They can be very useful tools. But for most people they're a distraction and a time suck. Which is to say most people spend most of their time on their devices not doing anything meaningful: playing the latest hot game, Facebooking, Facetiming, Snapchatting, reading the news (as vapid as it is). I predict VR will be more of the same.

Either way, we will see...


I think I was addressing attitudes towards new technologies, rather than their actual impacts, which you quite rightly focus on.

I'm less convinced that the impacts of these new technologies are as pernicious as you claim, though I'm very open to the idea that hyperrewarding stimuli can "hack" reward pathways carefully tuned for a very different environment, be it McDonalds, PornHub, cocaine, or even Netflix.

But ultimately this is an empirical question, and while I see strong evidence that the food industry exploits our evolved impulses with carefully crafted payloads of calorie-dense foods, I don't see correspondingly strong evidence for a drop in productivity with the rise of ubiquitous, frictionless distraction- if anything we see a negative correlation.

Also worryingly absent from this analysis is the smorgasbord of opportunities for self-improvement that technology has created. Through technology, millions of people have picked up hobbies, languages, instruments, careers, partners, and yes, World of Warcraft, but I don't think we could tabulate these effects into a "net-technology-induced-eudaimonia" metric and say with a straight face that the result turned out to be negative after all.

Further red flags go up with your assertion that the population will bifurcate into the productive and unproductive, which seems to posit some mechanism that AFAIK we don't have good evidence for, like a susceptibility to distraction that's bimodally distributed among the population, or the lack of/ existence of various feedback effects that would amplify small variations, etc.

Anyway, my main point is not that these general concerns are unfounded, but that they're not well-supported by empirical evidence, so we're probably in broad agreement on that front.


They've actually posted this comment before: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10974036


Yes, I agree, framed this way we are more or less living in VR since the days of TV, telephone and radio. But I wonder , there seems to be a difference, people can become unconsciously and unnaturally emotionally attached and dependent on this. Can they still manage themselves when the internet and VR falls away? I mean, viaiting eachother and going out walking in nature is infinitaly better (when you are in > 1h physical proximity). Will this technology on average provide more meaningful authentic communication and activities or less? You could argue that the medium is not relevant, but the medium pushes and shapes our bodies, minds and imagination to conform to a certain way of relating which might not necessarily be 'better'. Yes playing Tabletop Simulator boardgames with people across countries is very cool and conversing and working together with dedicated people on the same project this way is as well, but it takes dedication, setting boundaries, clear rules and focus. The same goes for navigating the internet - before you know it you have aimlessly browsed hundreds of sites, send dozens of replies to forum posts, and what have you really meaningfully contributed? It takes time to learn this, just as it takes time to read books, read about and apply research, learn nettiquette and living a balanced life. Some people decided a mobile or a TV didn't add enough value and live without one. Will you be able to make that decision more easily with VR or the internet? The key difference is that the economic distance between our bodies and VR technology is very high. Small is beautiful and less is more. How can you integrate VR in a minimal lifestyle?


Video chatting with Skype is preferred rather than a funky VR setup personally. I can not imagine this taking off in business. It would like be using dressup clothes in a business meeting -- what is the purpose?

I can view this possibly useful among the Snapchat crowd, but Snapchat allows for deferred messaging, which has great use.


I find the creation of avatars in VR intriguing. What FB showed is far from perfect, and apparently the avatar's gestures and expressions are controlled by hand motions, as another poster pointed out. Still, even without legs, their avatars look a lot better than these [1] by Foo VR, in which they synthesize a full body avatar solely from controller positions. [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PT3jZyOXqzU


I am always amazed about how childish this company behaves, and especially its chef. If i would not know the age of these people and their voices i would guess they are 10 judged by their actions. Looks this was made for childish minds in this increasingly infantile society, and like a little megalomaniac kids dream 'to catch all humans that are dumb enough' in his fantasy VR bubble. I hope humankind does not get too damaged by this company and their primary school games.


I'd actually say that the presentation was really good. It's mostly in a very accessible form of humor that most can participate in. This presentation will not only be seen by those in the crowd but millions of people on Facebook. The people Mark needs to convince to use these products are not the old but the young, and by using that language I think he's reached the heart of many in the insanely large demographic this demo is targetting.

EDIT: Typo


This demo was not any less childish than what we've already seen from Apple, Google and Microsoft the latest years. It seems to be a general trend.


Don't forget that Palmer Luckey, the head of Oculus, is a white supremacist funding the production of online propaganda.


"Put's people first". Yeah right, more it literally and figuratively puts people out of the picture.


>Looks this was made for childish minds

Not to mention very awkward.


I'm ecstatic about this project but this demo was not the first of it's kind. It was demo'd live earlier this year at F8: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzhHCcR6hic


From the demo filmed today vs that demo, it feels like they've made a lot of progress


I wonder if the vr can actually grab their facial expressions, or how much was pre-rendered.


I would love to see a very different use case. Lets build a virtual space with the known parts of the universe and let anybody travel in it and visit planets, pull up details. That would be much more appealing use case to me than the ones demoed in this video.


I wonder if your spouse would be impressed that she sees your avatar instead of you in a video call. It may be novel in the first 1-2 times, but then it'll get tiresome very soon. Especially since the avatars are so poorly made (and with teeth, really?).


How come I can't find any pictures/video from external point of view of the demo, just to see how it looks from outside to see Zuckerberg do his demo? Is that all staged? Where people forbidden to take pic/video at the event?


Somewhere in the next 4-7 years, I predict we'll see Facebook give away free (or sell extremely cheap) AR glasses - which have a significantly reduced form factor.


Makes me think of a hybrid of Second Life and Minecraft. Trying to appeal to two very distinct demographics. Not too serious, not too cartoony. Somewhere in between.


That demo looked suuuuper awkward to me. Had to stop after a minute or two because it was so painful. Like Elon Musk, who also sucks at presentation, Zuckerberg should just get a skilled actor to present for him.

The VR app itself looked super cheesy, too. It's embarrassing to see a company with Facebook's resources come out with an app whose avatars don't look much better than a couple of South Park characters.

Way too much hype, and too little substance. Call me back in 10 years, when a serious VR Skype-killer app arrives.


Elon Musk is a great presenter. It's refreshing to have someone not overconfident and who is a little skeptical.

The avatars did seem pretty childish, which makes me think this thing could be aimed at kids and teens. Makes sense, given their adoption of Pokemon Go.


Musk stutters. There are also many awkward halts and pauses in his sentences, and a lot of um'ing and ah'ing in his speeches. "um" is probably the most frequent word that he uses. The overall impression is that he's nervous and just not a very capable speaker.

He really could benefit from a couple of years of basic Toastmasters' training, not to mention how much he could improve with the help of a world-class speech coach (or even a team of them) that he could easily afford.


I get all that. But what I'm saying is that he has a distinctive voice.

It's refreshing to have someone who isn't so polished. Sure, the dude stutters and stammers, but it's not to the detriment of being able to parse whatever he happens to be saying, ist it? This softer-touch presentational style is where he has derived so much reverence, envy, and cultural capital.


It's like a low-rent version of Second Life.


Second Life IS the low rent version of Second Life. I don't think anyone has made the high rent version yet.


I thought Second Life was the low rent version of first life. You know, life life.


The same guys who made Second Life have made a second second life that's pretty sweet. Better in many ways than OP's demo.

https://highfidelity.com/


I'd read about that a while back. Seems to be shaping up pretty nicely. Although right now the most interesting feature is their issue tracker [1] and bug bounty system.

[1] https://worklist.net/worklist


"Adam: Why do you waste your time with that second-life bullshit? Look at you. You're still in jail. You were in jail last week.

Jacob: Yeah, I'm a prisoner. It's called "doing hard time".

Adam: Can't you be like a warrior or shaman or orc or some shit like that?" — Hot Tub Time Machine


God that facebook banner is awful. So glad I dumped this site years ago.


What is the sell point of this? Real-time lip sync???


disrupting the $200 trillion industry!


This is amazing. I want VR so bad.

On a lower note, I wish there were real games rather than this kind of things, but I still find it amazing.


woah... this is really impressive


"Travel to Mars"

Ha.

Is that the trend now?


two paper clips... arf arf...


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Wow. I'm not a big fan of Facebook, but that was pretty cool.


> and (dog name) doesn't know what's going on (hahahaha) "yeah he usually doesn't"

Can't help but notice how certain kind of intellectuals always view animals with contempt. They may love the animal, but they see it as a "pet". What they're really saying, is that the dog is stupid.

Now personally, I'm not really excited about technology that's designed by people who live so much in their head, that they categorize the world in "intelligent humans" and "stupid animals". I kid you not, I'm pretty sure, many of them do actually believe that making a computer that simulates a completely working dog and all its behaviours is just a matter of time.. because hey, "the brain is just a computer" and obviously to them, a dog's brain is a much simpler computer...

Now animals being stupid isn't enough. The world also is stupid, so let's just recreate trees, which are obviously just a collection of parts "branch", "trunk" and so on. Wooooo. And then let's touch ourselves all day thinking about how the world is a simulation because we're obviously just a few millenia away of simulating ourselves.

/rant OFF

I'm sure they really love their dog... but to me these type of comments are not innocent. It reveals the materialistic paradigm that drives people making those technologies, and I'm not sure it is for the better.

We're pretty much designing everything on mobile around addiction already, we need more ethics in the way that technology is designed. Especially when it is designed by people who's primary motivation in life is to amass riches rather than actually making our life better.




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