Oculus has also bought several game production studios and other VR-based companies, such as BigBox VR, Beat Games, and Sanzaru Games, to create more VR content.
With Workrooms, Facebook wants to take Oculus beyond video games. The service is intended to provide a sense of presence with other people, even if they are sitting on the other side of the world.
Zuckerberg sees the project as part of the next internet, one that technologists call “the metaverse.” In Zuckerberg’s opinion, the metaverse is a world in which people can communicate through virtual reality or video calls, cell phones or tablets, or through other devices such as smart glasses or gadgets that have not yet been invented.
There, people will maintain a certain sense of continuity between all the different digital worlds that are inhabited. Someone could buy a digital avatar of a shirt at a virtual reality store, for example, and then go offline but follow that shirt to a Zoom meeting.
For now, that vision remains distant. VR adoption can be measured in tens of millions of users, compared to the miles of millions of smartphone owners. Facebook has stumbled, too, recalling the Quest 2’s foam covers this year after some users reported irritation to their skin. The company has offered new free silicone padded cases to all Quest 2 owners.
At this week’s Workrooms event with journalists, Zuckerberg spoke, but had to leave at one point and return to the room because his digital avatar’s mouth wouldn’t move when he spoke.
“The technology that gives you that sense of presence is like the holy grail of social experiences and I think a company like ours was designed to do that over time,” Zuckerberg said, after the glitch was fixed and the mouth of his avatar moved again. “My hope is that, in the next few years, people start to think of us not primarily as a social media company, but as a ‘metaverse’ company that provides a true sense of presence.”
Mike Isaac is a technology reporter and author of Super pumped: the battle for Uber, which is on the NYT bestseller list, about the dramatic rise and fall of the passenger transport company. It covers regular Facebook and Silicon Valley, and is based in the San Francisco bureau of the Times. @MikeIsaac