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Oculus Venues App Brings Social Co-Viewing of MLB Games, Live Concerts to Oculus Go, Gear VR Headsets

Looking to make virtual reality (VR) more social, Facebook launched a new app called Oculus Venues Wednesday that allows headset users to watch concerts, sports games and other live events together.

Some of the events available on Oculus Venues in the coming weeks include a Vance Joy concert this Wednesday night, a weekly MLB game starting with the San Francisco Giants vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 6, LA’s weekly “School Night” concert series, a weekly gig at the Gotham Comedy Club and a number of movie showings courtesy of Lionsgate, with titles including “Reservoir Dogs,” “Apocalyspe Now” and “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder.”

Oculus recently demonstrated Venues to a group of a few dozen journalists, inviting them to join the company in virtual reality for a faux live viewing of a basketball game. Participants had to create an Oculus avatars first, and were then transported directly into what can best be described as the dedicated VR seating section of a sports arena, with direct view of the action.

There, one could watch the game surrounded by roughly 30-40 avatars, and talk to them via voice chat. Just in real life, participants could overhear the conversations of their seat neighbors. You could also easily change your seat, and there were some controls to adjust the audio of both the game and the VR crowd.

Oculus Venues does require a Facebook account, and by default shares some basic interests with other users. However, the app doesn’t share any real names with users until after they have befriended each other on Oculus. Users who find the social experience too distracting can opt to ditch their friends at any point, and continue to view the event from a private, single-person VR suite.

Before entering an event, Oculus is instructing users to abide by their terms of conduct to prevent harassment. The company also makes it possible for anyone to report other users, complete with a short video clip of the harasser. However, the reporting functionality takes you out of the actual Venues app, which means that users could potentially have to choose between enduring harassment, and missing a part of the game.

Facebook first unveiled Oculus Venues at its f8 developer conference in April as part of a line-up of social apps that also included Oculus Rooms, a personal living room app where users can meet up with friends and play board games together, as well as Oculus TV, a still-unreleased social TV viewing experience.

The goal of all of these apps clearly is to make VR more attractive by making it about communication and social interaction as much as about gaming and other content consumption. Whether that works will depend in part on the content line-up Facebook can secure for Venues — and the company clearly got big plans for live events: In addition to the aforementioned games and concerts, Facebook also plans to add NBA League Pass games, additional live concerts and still-unannounced Showtime content to venues in the coming months.

 

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