Facebook wants to solve impersonal conversations with VR

According to Facebook, Facebook is bad for you. No matter, as they want to personalise the impersonal nature of social media conversations by adding VR. OK.



The term “virtual reality” is quickly becoming the Tiger Balm of the tech age. Something doesn’t work? Rub some VR on it.

According to Facebook, the solution to the problem that they’ve created (in limiting interpersonal relationships to inauthentic digital exchanges) is adding virtual reality, so you can see the people you’re sending GIFs to. This, apparently, will work. According to Lauren Sherman, who lead a 2016 study on the effects of social media on adolescents, “in a face to face interaction, everything is qualitative…you use someone’s gestures or facial expressions, that sort of thing, to see how effective your message is. If you go online, one of the ways you gauge the effectiveness of your message is in the number of likes, favourites or retweets.”

In other words, quality over quantity.

We all know that social media is a universe of quantity. More is never enough. In fact, experts now believe the experience to be closer to the sensation felt when gambling. “The rewards are the key to social media users repeatedly checking their screens,” explained Mark Griffiths, a professor of behavioural addition at Nottingham Trent University, to The Guardian.

So, is less, therefore, less, or is it more? Will seeing the digital mug of a troll circumvent all the established negative damage social media has done to you?

Dunno, but Oculus has an idea. They call it a “personalised home base in VR”, but it sounds awfully like a room with people you know in it (otherwise known as a room), with the technology deliberately eliminating everything but the chat and the intrusion of people you don’t know. Clearly, the snake has started gorging on itself, as the cutting edge of future possibilities somehow is now limited to the sitting room at your nan’s house.

It seems odd. Something that would be presented in some laser gridded museum of the future, heralding the archaic nonsense of the past, well-lit, with a dead voice empathetically announcing this is they called a conversation.

“What VR does is it takes all the gadgets away, it takes all of the multitasking away and you actually feel like you’re with someone,” Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, explained in an interview. “We call this social presence — you see their emotions, you see their gestures and it feels just like you’re in the room with them. It takes what is typically seen as something that’s unemotional and distant and makes it feel like somebody is right there with you.”




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