Ready to get social in virtual reality? Then hold onto your headset.
Oculus has announced a number of new features today that have everything to do with social interaction, plus added voice controls for even more convenient VR usage.
First up is Facebook Livestreaming for Gear VR. You read that right: users of the Samsung headset can stream what they're experiencing to a viewing audience.
To get streaming, look for the "Livestream to Facebook" option located in the Universal Menu. Click on this, and your livestream will launch right away, beaming out to all your pals on the world's largest social media network.
There is one small catch: Only Samsung Gear VR users outside the US can livestream right now, however Oculus says Facebook Livestreaming will arrive for every Samsung phone running the latest version of Android in the coming weeks.
Socially virtual and vocal
Among Oculus' other announcements are new ways to be more social within a virtual reality experience and use your voice for search.
Social interaction is one of the sticking points of VR - it is an inherently isolating experience - so introducing more ways for users to interact with one another is key to headsets like the Oculus Rift's long-term success.
To that end, Oculus Rooms 1.2 is an update to the Rooms feature that lets you meet up with others in a virtual room to hangout and do things like watch Vimeo music videos.
With Rooms 1.2, users can also watch 360 videos, or videos shot to provide more immersion than a standard 2D clip. The Rooms update also includes voice search, letting you vocalize a request to find specific content.
To use voice search in Rooms, select Search in the TV zone and hit the microphone button.
Speaking of voice search (heh), a new addition by the name of Oculus Voice is now available to English speakers of both the Oculus Rift and Gear VR. You can now conduct searches from Oculus Home to find games, apps and other VR experiences with voice commands.
Depending on how well the voice recognition really works, this could be a convenient way to navigate around a VR world without needing to employ your hands. Oculus says more voice-enabled functions are on the way, such as looking for online friends and sending out game invites.
Finally, Oculus is breaking the champagne on a new feature called Oculus Events. Akin to Facebook Events, these let you locate (who else) friends and join a virtual reality experience as a group.
These events are public, and highlighted happenings will be featured in the Oculus Home. A new Events tab will list all Oculus Events for you to peruse and choose to join.
What kind of events are we talking here? Oculus says they entail everything from multiplayer games, tournaments, tech talks and trivia.
Will these new features entice more people to buy a Samsung Gear VR or Oculus Rift? Perhaps not on alone, but they definitely provide some fun new uses for the VR headsets, serving to bolster the ecosystem as competitors continue to crop up.
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