Facebook’s OASIS-style VR playground Horizon enters public beta

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Did you forget that Facebook was building the OASIS? The company has been working on its multiplayer virtual reality social space, Horizon, for a while now, which is comparable in concept if not scope to the fantastical VR world of Ready Player One. This week the company announced it’s expanding access and making Horizon an invite-only public beta.

As it goes into public beta, Horizon has been kitted out with new games and environments. Facebook is also introducing new tools to combat abuse on the platform, including the option to step away from the VR world into a “Personal Safe Zone” where you can mute, block, and report the people and content around you You can join Horizon’s waitlist here.

The app (service? social network? gamespace?) is, in Facebook’s own words, “an ever-expanding universe of virtual experiences designed and built by the entire community.” That means you can hang out and chat with people in Horizon using custom VR avatars, or play games and activities built with the app’s internal tools. In that respect Horizon is similar to Roblox, which has gained huge popularity by letting users build their own experiences.

First-hand reports from outlets including CNET and Engadget offer some interesting insight into what Horizon is like right now. They describe playing simple games like Balloon Bash (a water balloon “shooter”), taking part in a game show called Interdimensional (built around a series of timed escape rooms and puzzles), and experimenting with a flexible creation mode that lets you build custom environments using 3D shapes and templates.

“In many ways, it reminded me of the white void from The Matrix — a room filled with limitless potential and creativity,” says Engadget’s Devindra Hardawar on Horizon’s creative mode. “Within a few minutes, my guide turned the empty space into a virtual beach, complete with sand, water and a golden sunset horizon. All the while, I spent a few minutes trying to create a palm tree.”

Horizon is interesting in and of itself as a big experiment into the future of online socialization. But it’s also possible Facebook wants to make more of the tool at a time when in-person socializing is so much more challenging. The company’s big annual VR conference, Facebook Connect (previously Oculus Connect) is scheduled for September 16th, and it’ll be interesting to see whether or not Horizon takes center stage.

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