As fast as things have changed over the past decade, it wouldn’t be surprising if you sometimes woke up believing you were in an alternate reality, only to realize that you were not.  Things really have changed.  We have self-driving cars, video phones, robot vacuum cleaners and talking televisions.

The way we interact with each other may have changed more than anything else, but perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky that we have any interaction at all.  For all of those we never wrote, and those we never called – but then Facebook came along.   In 2007, Facebook all but rescued us from spiraling into complete isolation.

Over the last 10 years, Facebook has been your message board, your emotional barometer, your scrapbook, your newspaper, your family reunion, your texting service…your best friend and your worst enemy.  If it weren’t for Facebook, you never would have known that the crazy kid from your old neighborhood is now a surgeon.  If it weren’t for Google, Facebook would be the Internet.

Since going global in 2004, Facebook has gone from a $200 million company, to an empire that will likely surpass $1 trillion in the next few years because the hits keep coming.  Facebook continues to anticipate our social habits and changes – and contributes to it.  When Facebook went global, there were no “smart devices.”  The iPhone didn’t exist and everyone was still on a computer.  Now – at least half of our Internet time is experienced by way of mobile devices.

In 2014, citing continuing growth of mobile and increasing uptake of “wearables,” Facebook did something that seemed bizarre, they announced a $2 billion purchase of an “unfinished” gaming headset – Oculus Rift.

Why do that when they could just order a $20 kit for Google Cardboard?  Just kidding.

Mark Zuckerberg said that virtual reality would become “the most social platform, ever.”  Ironic that the guy who helped digital social interaction replace actual social interaction, plans to replace that with virtual social interaction.  Seems like he was on the right track though, virtual reality is becoming “real-reality” soon as Oculus Rift is in beta testing mode with the newest Facebook property “Spaces.”

Until now, virtual reality has really been a solo trip and was either multi-player gaming or a fancier “sim” game.  You were interacting with avatars that probably don’t look at all like the people they supposedly represented.  You didn’t know them anyway so it has been all about the activity.

Facebook Spaces is not like that.

Facebook Spaces doesn’t have quests or games – it is like hanging out with your friends.  Your avatar hangs out with the avatar of your friends – the ones you used to hang out with in person.  You may not be using Facebook as much as you did in the beginning but everything and everyone is still there.

Put on the Oculus Rift headset and launch Spaces, which logs you into your Facebook account.  You can physically wander through all of the stuff you have dropped off with Facebook over the years – like going through boxes in the attic, but without the dust.  Complete privacy to reminisce – not even a fear of the teenager looking over your shoulder.

Or you can log on and sit around and chat with your already-known Facebook friends – or meet new ones.  Since its social media – you at least have some idea of whether the avatar is anything like the real thing.  It is a virtual version of the real thing without the wrinkles, gray hair or stain on your shirt.  Kind of like the best selfie.  Incidentally, you can take a VR photo of yourself and your VR friends.  Like Bitstrips on steroids.

Other VR platforms have a lot more “exciting” things to “do” – an amusement park of activities or a shooting gallery.   But this is Facebook.  We didn’t get on Facebook because it was exciting.  We got on it for the warm fuzzies, to feel important, to feel connected. FB says they may have more “activities” later, but so far, they are only including things that increase social interaction.  If it doesn’t make relationships better then it doesn’t belong.

What will Spaces integrate?

Naturally, Spaces will integrate with Messenger, including the video calls.  So, your virtual world might include your virtual self on a virtual video call with someone who isn’t in virtual reality…or are they?   At least you are pretty sure you know what they look like IRL.

Facebook hasn’t announced when Spaces will go live but they are letting certain journalists in to check it out so it should be soon.  The service itself will most likely be free, Facebook hasn’t made its money by charging the regular users for participation but there hasn’t been an announcement on how much it will cost to get the headset – or when it will be out of testing.

In the meantime, you can be thinking about how “real” you want to be with your avatar…. since all of your Facebook friends already know who you are, you might want to include the gray hair and a few wrinkles.

 

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