There is no doubt in my mind that social VR is going to be a driving factor in changing the public’s opinion on VR as an isolating experience. The only question is how do you bring it to mobile in a compelling way. I never once thought that kind of compelling experience would come in the form of watching a Twitch stream with a couple of friends.
Today, Oculus announced that Twitch and Vimeo would be coming to the Gear VR with support for social interaction. I was able to try this out today at the Gear VR cafe and it was one of the standouts of all the new content on the Gear VR.
A favorite of mine was a cat head with eyes that look like it had been through a few all nighters with no sleep.
They already had the Social app running when they handed me the Gear VR to try it out. After putting it on, I was sitting in a small theater on a recliner chair surrounded by other chairs. There were 4 other avatars in the room. I would struggle to call them avatars, as each one was just a head hovering in mid air, but the design on each of the different heads was hilarious.
A favorite avatar of mine was a cat head with eyes that looked like it had been through a few all nighters with no sleep. Upon glancing at this head, I burst out into hysteric laughter. We then started chatting, which is all done through the phone’s mic, and worked quite well. Of course the quality wasn’t as good as a dedicated mic, but given that we were in a fairly noisy room and just using our phones as mics, I wasn’t expecting the quality to be of that kind of high caliber. You could tell when someone was talking by a shimmering circle thingy appearing around their avatar’s mouth.
Standard head tracking is present. I could rotate my head around in all directions and see other avatars heads looking around as well. We were watching a sports game on Twitch. At any time I could tap the screen and pause the video or go to the main menu. The screen itself looked pretty much like what a Twitch video looks like, with the chat box on the right side.
One thing that was slightly disappointing was not being able to type in the Twitch chat. I would have loved to interact in some way with the people watching via pc or phone. Also, bringing up the main menu displayed all the Twitch channels you are subscribed to on your Twitch account. You can tell if a video is a livestream by a dot on the video thumbnail. The live videos were interspersed with the pre-recorded ones. It would have been nice to see all the live videos automatically on top of the video selection menu, as that’s usually why I check out Twitch.
Currently, you will need to be connected through WiFi to use Social, much like in Oculus 360 Photos.
The surprising part of the menu interaction is that anyone can see which videos you are pulling up in the menu and chime in on what they want to see. This really does add an extra kick to the social interaction as a huge part of what’s involved in hanging out with your friends and watching videos is figuring out what you want to watch.
To get to these different spaces you start out at a main menu, which displays the different rooms and whether they are for Twitch or Vimeo. I noticed a maximum of 5 people possible in each room. Other than Twitch and Vimeo, there was a Trivia room, which currently includes some sort of trivia game with pre-developed questions, and was not available for demoing. There was also an Oculus Cinema type room, but I couldn’t get any specific details on how that would work. There were just a few videos in that room.
At the moment, you will need to be connected to WiFi to experience Twitch or Vimeo with your friends on the Gear VR. This of course is always subject to change before release. The social VR with Twitch and Vimeo on Gear VR should be coming at or before the Gear VR launch. I’m hoping for before, as this is really something you have to jump into to see how powerful the experience can be.