Facebook Is Pioneering The VR Emoji
The system is designed to give greater depth to online conversations taking place in virtual reality
In 2014 Facebook purchased Oculus, an American virtual reality (VR) technology company, with the hope that VR headsets would become as ubiquitous as the social network itself. At the recent Oculus Connect 3 conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed off the social network’s VR emoji.
The technology works by motion-capturing your face and projecting it onto a VR interface for friends to see. Facebook believes that VR emojis will add greater clarification and understanding to online conversations, ultimately bringing more depth and richness to interactions in a purely virtual environment.
A number of experiments are still underway to uncover different ways to personalize users’ digital avatars. One option is an internal drawing tool where people can illustrate a version of their face to put onto an avatar.
Another option is to use a Structure sensor, or other image-capturing device, to create a model of their head. Whatever the offering will ultimately be, it will need to work reliably, otherwise the feature could quickly cross the uncanny valley into the realm of the creepy.
In addition to adding another layer to conversations, VR emojis enable people to visit destinations along with their friends (or rather, their avatars, which are overlaid onto the experience).
Activities such as playing cards, watching TV, sword fighting and taking VR selfies are all options within Facebook’s current VR offering.
The idea of Facebook Live streaming from the physical world onto a constructed digital one ties VR back to the company’s core product, which is increasingly focused on video. Recent VR opportunities are just another way for Facebook to accomplish its stated objective of connecting the world, and making friends feel closer no matter where they are.