Using a major natural disaster to advertise your latest technology isn’t the smoothest of marketing strategies.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg found that out the hard way when he used his social media platform’s virtual reality software to float around Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
The freak weather caused many deaths and left homes and property in a mangled wreck.
Zuckerberg linked up with Facebook’s head of social virtual reality, Rachel Franklin, to tour the island earlier this week.
Partly a way to show off Facebook’s latest developments, partly a way to show off Facebook’s disaster relief efforts, the livestream unsurprisingly didn’t go down too well.
And yet, if this was one big marketing stunt, Facebook has achieved its goal. If it hadn’t, you wouldn’t be wondering what exactly Facebook Spaces is right now.
So what is Facebook Spaces?
Facebook Spaces is an app that brings the social aspect of social media to virtual reality.
Groups of friends are able to meet up in one of Facebook Spaces virtual locations and browse their Facebook feeds together. For example, if you come across a funny video, you can jump into Facebook Spaces and watch it together.
Alternatively you can explore real-life locations together in 360 degrees, much like the Puerto Rico experience that Zuckerberg and Franklin enjoyed. Of course, this feature won’t limit you to disaster areas.
Alternatively, you can enjoy Facebook Spaces as a solo experience. Users can draw and build objects in the virtual reality world. These objects can then be interacted with in different ways.
Those chasing likes will be happy to know that can do all this while streaming live to your Facebook friends.
How does Facebook Spaces stand out from other VR hangouts?
Facebook Spaces isn’t the first hangout type app to be released for virtual reality platforms. The Oculus Rift already has Oculus Rooms, which is a largely similar experience.
However, there are some ways that Facebook Spaces stands out from its competitors, largely thanks to all of that data that you have fed into the social media platform over the last decade.
One notable difference is the avatar creation process. Rather than choosing from a number of premade models, Facebook Spaces builds your avatar from pictures on your profile. The end result is a fully customisable character, similar to Nintendo’s Miis, that actually bears some resemblance to the person that it’s meant to be.
Likewise, Facebook also has a huge library of video content to call upon which other apps can’t offer. The platform frequently recommends 360 degree videos for users to enjoy within the app.
How can I use Facebook Spaces?
Unsurprisingly, Facebook has made Spaces exclusive to its own virtual reality system, the Oculus Rift. Therefore, HTC Vive or PlayStation VR users won’t be able to access Facebook in virtual reality.
Facebook has yet to offer a full release, but those with an Oculus headset can download a beta version of the app via the Oculus Store.