In Depth

Facebook launches beta for Spaces VR app

Virtual hangout lets Oculus Rift users chat, video message and watch videos in VR

Facebook has added another social platform to its roster with the release of a beta version of its virtual reality (VR) hangout app, Spaces.

Announced at the company's F8 conference, Spaces drops users and their friends into a virtual environment that can be customised to their taste.

Available exclusively for Oculus VR headsets, the VR hangout creates a customisable cartoon-like avatar that can be moved around the environment using Oculus's Touch controllers. These characters can either be created from scratch or automatically generated from the user's Facebook pictures.

Up to four people can enter one space at a time, where they can chat or watch 360-degree videos as a group, says TechCrunch. Users can also "make video calls on Messenger and take VR selfies of their cartoonish avatars". 

Despite the cel-shaded-style characters, Engadget says users will "immediately" notice how lifelike the experience is. The combination of the Oculus Rift headset and Touch controllers "creates a little motion capture studio", meaning character movements mimic those of the user. 

The platform also "infers what your eyes are looking at", adds the site, creating a sense of eye-contact between avatars. 

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg also announced that the company wants to turn smartphone cameras into augmented reality (AR) platforms, which The Guardian says will allow people to "paste more and more detail over the real world". 

The AR platform demonstrated at F8 has similar features to the photo-sharing network Snapchat, which the paper says "popularised the idea of the AR camera". 

The Spaces beta is free to download, says TechCrunch, and is available now from Oculus's Early Access Store. 

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