Facebook Goes Virtual, Debuts Spaces Chat Room

Facebook just launched Spaces -- its virtual chat room complete with cartoonish avatars, customizable environments and various multimedia offerings.

First unveiled last year, Facebook announced the general availability of Spaces at its F8 Conference on Tuesday.

Naturally, avatars can be customized to one’s liking, and then put to use at “parties” -- where up to eight users can engage in virtual socializing -- as well in more private “rooms.”

Unlike Facebook’s flagship social network, Space’s cost of admission is steep.

To join the virtual party, people will first need to fork over $599 for an Oculus Rift VR headset, and -- if they want the full Spaces experience -- another $199 for some Oculus Touch hand controls, $49 for special Oculus earbuds, and $79 for an additional sensor for “room scale support.”

With these costs in mind, Facebook is trying to rein in expectations for user experience and adoption.



“Today is only the beginning,” Rachel Franklin, Head of Social VR at Facebook, notes in a new blog post.We’ve only just scratched the surface of social VR technology.”

Of course, the social giant has a lot riding on VR. That became clear when it dropped $2 billion on Oculus VR in 2014.

Separate and apart from the Oculus deal, Facebook has already pumped $250 million into VR research and development. It has set aside an additional $250 for future VR investments, Mark Zuckerberg told attendees at an Oculus Connect last October.

Of particular interest, $50 million of that sum has been set aside for mobile VR content, added Zuckerberg.

Among other offerings, there are games, including VR Sports Challenge, a sci-fi first-person shooter game named Arktika, and The Unspoken, which has been described as an “urban magic fight club.

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