Facebook shows how it's gonna make virtual reality social

Smiles, raised eyebrows and meetings on Mars: Mark Zuckerberg shows where Facebook is taking Oculus Rift.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
2 min read
Watch this: This is how you'll chat with friends in virtual reality
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A selfie Mark Zuckerberg took while in VR with his dog and his wife, who called in on Facebook Messenger, with a digital selfie stick.

Photo via Facebook

The time for games is over -- virtual reality is getting social.

The platform, once dominated by immersive games, is about to get taken over by social networks, with Facebook leading the charge.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed off live VR chat using the Oculus Rift on Thursday, with his own Justin Timberlake look-a-like avatar.

On stage at the Oculus Connect 3 conference, Zuckerberg demonstrated the Oculus Touch controller's emotion options, which make avatars show facial expressions, letting you look surprised, happy or confused in VR.

"Eventually, the goal is to achieve most of what you saw today through gestural tracking and voice analysis," a spokeswoman for Facebook said.

The demo showed several features, including changing backgrounds to live locations like inside Facebook's offices or at Zuckerberg's home, where he was able to check on his dog, Beast.

While at his home in VR, his wife Priscilla Chan called in through Facebook Messenger, leading to a selfie -- with a virtual selfie stick -- of Zuckerberg, his wife in a chat box and their dog.

Watch this: Your Oculus avatar can pull a sword out of thin air and take a VR selfie

"We should build software and experiences that follow the way our minds work and process the world," Zuckerberg said. "Virtual reality is the perfect platform to put people first because of presence."

The experience includes being able to play games like cards, Chess and fencing, as well as pulling up videos in real time and watching with your friends on virtual reality.

Zuckerberg showed off a few of the creative possibilities that come with the new Oculus platform, like being able to draw and play with your creations in the social experience.

The demonstration was Facebook's first dive into creating a social platform for Oculus, using VR to connect with your friends and family. The social network is one of many major tech companies pushing virtual reality as the next big trend. The company entered the VR business through its $1 billion acquisition of Oculus in 2014.

Oculus is pushing for a more social environment on VR, with its Oculus Avatar feature, allowing users to create a digital version of themselves and interact with their friends from anywhere in the world.

"This is the first time that tech has made this level of social presence possible," said Lauren Vegter, Oculus' social product team leader.

She introduced Parties and Rooms, two new features that let people come together in a VR lounge, where they can watch videos, listen to music and hang out.

Rooms will be Oculus' core spot for the device's social apps.

Social integration was the focus in the future of the Oculus platform, leading the demonstration on Thursday, taking charge over VR game titles.

Update, 11:04 a.m. PT: Adds details on Oculus' social focus.

Correction, 12:08 p.m. PT: An earlier version of this story misstated how avatars' facial expressions are controlled. The facial expressions are done through the Oculus Touch controller.