Horizon Worlds Launches Official NBA Lane Experience

Horizon Worlds’ next tie-in experience is with the NBA.

A new NBA Lane world can be found under the Events tab of Meta’s social creation tool, and will be available until June 30. Within the world you can explore NBA-themed environments and shoot hoops with friends. There’s also a low gravity dunk contest with judges that rank your performance, a huge virtual screen with highlight clips and a trophy room where you can find the new Larry O’Brien trophy.

Horizon Worlds NBA Trophy

This is Horizon Worlds’ second major brand tie-in after launching a Wendy’s world earlier in the year. Currently the app is only available in the US and Canada as a beta, though Meta is planning to open up to more territories in the future. Last week Meta announced that it was bringing its other Horizons experience, Venues, into the Worlds app and retiring the original.

Yesterday Meta also introduced a new feature for the experience, the Asset Library. This essentially gives users quick access to a library of over 100 pre-made items and objects made by Meta staff and some community members. More assets will be added over time.

Are you going to check out Horizon Worlds’ NBA Lane experience? Let us know in the comments below!

Horizon Worlds Adds 100+ Pre-Made Items With New Asset Library Feature

From today, you can access a library of pre-made assets in Meta’s virtual creation tool, Horizon Worlds.

Still in open beta in the US and Canada, Horizon Worlds lets Quest and Rift users build virtual worlds, objects and experiences to share with friends and others. But, so far, any item or prop a user might want to utilize in their creation would have to be made from scratch. That’s useful for those that want to build worlds out of their own content, but Meta is now adding a shortcut for those that don’t want to create unique assets for every aspect of their worlds. It’s called the Asset Library.

Horizon Worlds Asset Library

As it stands right now, the Asset Library is essentially a curated list of 3D assets made by Meta staff and some Horizon community memebers that lets you quickly bring them into your own creation. So you might be able to quickly add guitars to a music venue, for example, provided the library contains the relevent asset.

You’ll also be able to see how items in the Asset Library were made to get tips for your own work.

It doesn’t appear to be currently possible for anyone to upload any of their creations to the library, but Meta will be adding more items to the library over time and is asking users to share ideas and upvote others for what they want to see next. We asked the company if there are plans to allow community members to monetize their creations in any way through this new feature, but a Meta spokesperson said this was not currently a supported option.

Meta to Merge ‘Venues’ Event Space into ‘Horizon Worlds’ Social VR Platform

Horizon Worlds is Meta’s social VR platform for Quest 2 and Rift which includes ways for users to explore together, create their own rooms, and play mini-games. The company is making good on its vision to mold the social platform into more of a monolithic metaverse app by folding its live event app Horizon Venues entirely into Worlds.

The change is slated to take place starting June 6th, the company says in a blog post, which will allow Horizon Worlds users direct access to Venues events, such as live sports, concerts, comedy, and user-created meet-ups.

Horizon Worlds is still in somewhat of a beta, as only 18+ users from the US and Canada have access right now. That means that once the company transitions Venues into Worlds on June 6th, only those users will be able to access it, including minors and Quest 1 users. The company says it’s still publishing highlights and replays of Venues events in Oculus TV.

“We’ve experimented with portals between Horizon Venues and Horizon Worlds over the past few months, and we’ve seen just how powerful it can be when you can seamlessly jump between a game world to a hang out space—then head right into a big show with your friends,” Meta says.

Meta says it will roll out Horizon Worlds in more countries at some point this summer. The company hasn’t intimated any significant event between now and Connect 2022, which typically takes place in Fall. It might suggest the wider rollout of Horizon Worlds won’t feature the sort of fanfare associated with some of its most celebrated platform exclusive features and games—although that’s pure speculation.

Meanwhile, Meta is vying for more third-party developer talent to help build out Worlds by expanding developer programs to include training on how to build games and experiences which ought to help attract more users from competing social apps, such as Rec RoomVR Chat, and Bigscreen.

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A Dating App for Meeting Avatars in VR Aims to Build Very Real Relationships

Flirtual is a dating app designed to match VR users together and to facilitate dates in social VR applications. The creators say it’s a codification of a trend that’s already happening—people meeting in VR and going on to form real-world relationships.

Finding real relationships through online games is nothing new. For at least a few decades now, players in virtual worlds like Runescape, World of Warcraft, and Second Life, have formed virtual friendships and partnerships that often carry over to the real-world.

The same has of course been happening in VR, and while the games of yore saw players communicating mostly by text and voice, VR of course ups the ante with the feeling of being physically present with others as well as bringing a significant portion of body language into the mix. Although VR users are still represented as avatars—which generally bare little resemblance to their real selves—VR makes the experience of interacting with people in virtual worlds objectively more rich; far from doing a /dance emote in an MMO, VR users can actually dance together and some use that added immersion to get even more intimate in VR.

That added realism makes VR the ideal platform for forming real-life relationships, say the creators of Flirtual, an online dating app which is designed to match VR users based on their interests and then facilitate a meetup in VR.

Rather than being its own self-contained social VR app, Flirtual is actually a non-VR app (currently available on Android, Windows, and browsers) which serves to match users who can then decide on their own where and how to meet in VR. The creators say most of the app’s VR socializing is presently happening in VRChat.

The Flirtual app itself will be familiar to anyone who has used a modern online dating app, with a few caveats.

Instead of pictures of themselves, Flirtual asks users to upload photos of their avatar (or avatars). The sign-up process involves typical questions like what you’re interested in, and what kind of person you’re looking to match with. And while there’s the expected ‘Sexual Orientation’ field, you’ll find ‘Experimenting in VR’ among a range of more common options. Also specific to VR, Flirtual asks which VR equipment you own and what your favorite social VR apps are.

Image courtesy Flirtual

While it might seem strange to match with other users when only knowing what their VR avatar looks like, the creators of Flirtual say that, for many, that’s part of the appeal of VR dating.

“When you choose how you look [via your avatar], it’s personality that makes the difference,” the developers assert. “[Flirtual is for a] vibe check in VR before sending IRL pics or video calling.”

Beyond matching users in the app, Flirtual also hosts speed dating and social events in VR.

Image courtesy Flirtual

Flirtual fo-founders Anthony Tan and Kyle Farewell say their desire to facilitate matches among VR users comes from their own experience with VR dating.

“Why are we doing this? Because VR has changed our lives. Honestly. It’s helped us come out of our shells, meet some of our best friends, survive quarantine sane, and fall in love.”

Farwell says he met his girlfriend of two years in VRChat, and the pair recently moved in together.

Flirtual is a re-launch of a similar service that Farwell started in 2018 called VRLFP (Virtual Reality Looking-for-Partner). After bringing on Tan as CEO the duo worked to launch the modern version of Flirtual, which also includes the ability to search for new VR friends rather than specifically seeking romantic connections.

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Quest Users Can Now Watch YouTube Together Thanks to ‘Bigscreen’ Update

Bigscreen is putting Meta to shame again, as the VR hangout app just got a serious bump in functionality for Quest users and PC VR users alike. Now VR’s favorite social viewing app includes native YouTube support, so you can watch anything on YouTube with friends and strangers.

Bigscreen has now added the version of YouTube you’d expect to find on a console or smart TVs, directly integrated into the VR hangout app. The update is out now for all supported headsets, including Meta Quest and all SteamVR and WindowsMR headsets.

This means you can use all YouTube features you’d expect, including logging in to your standard account or YouTube Premium account for ad-free viewing, watching YouTube TV for live sports and TV, and even renting movies through YouTube. Just like everything on Bigscreen, there aren’t any sharing limitations so you can easily pop on whatever you want: a TV show, rented movie, or live sport for friends and strangers.

For PC VR headsets, this also essentially means you don’t need to use the desktop mirroring function since YouTube is now baked in like all of the app’s other channels.

Following an update in December, this also means you’ll be able to share that screen with up to 15 people per room. Previous updates also brought improved spatial audio, new environments, and better remote desktop capability, which allows Quest users to stream their PC into their virtual room to share with friends.

Bigscreen says it has plenty more in the pipeline too. In the next few months, the studio says it’s looking forward to launching “a huge improvement to our Social VR platform with a new friends system, Bluetooth keyboard/gamepad support for Remote Desktop, and more,” Bigscreen CEO Darshan Shankar told Road to VR.

Bigscreen is available for free on all major headsets except for PSVR. There’s still no ETA on when to expect the app on PSVR although the developers have said in the past that its optimizations on Quest have essentially laid the foundation for PSVR in the future.

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Meta Planning Web-based Version of ‘Horizon Worlds’ With Lower Creator Fees Than Its VR Platform

Meta announced earlier this week it would eventually allow creators to sell items on its social VR platform, Horizon Worlds, adding that the company would take around 50% of revenue as its cut. Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth now says however Horizon Worlds is also getting a web-based version at some point which will feature lower creator fees.

Horizon Worlds is currently only available to Quest users in the US and Canada, although the company seems to be gearing up to expand with the announcement of a web-based version of the metaverse platform. For now, Horizon Worlds lets Quest users to chat and play mini-games, but the company is also nudging developers to build their own games, experiences, and items—all of it sellable on a future marketplace.

According to Bosworth, the platform fee for the web-based version of Horizon Worlds will only be 25%, which is a significant difference from the 47.5% fee previously announced for the VR version.

Speaking to The Verge, Meta VP of Horizon Vivek Sharma revealed its also working on bringing Horizon to mobile phones at some point later this year, and is currently in talks around releasing on game consoles too—two big steps in growing its userbase beyond the Quest platform.

Bosworth says the 25% platform fee will also be applied to other platforms beyond the web-based version, albeit after Apple/Google/Whoever takes their cut. Like on the Meta platform for Quest, that works out to (depending on the platform) more or less an effective rate of 47.5% of anything sold on Horizon Worlds to Meta, leaving 52.5% to the creator.

Meta’s Horizon Worlds is undoubtedly headed into competition with Roblox, but it’s clearly eyeing other successful VR social platforms such as VRChat and Rec Room toothe latter of which announced last week that it had hit three million monthly active VR users—yes, VR users.

Granted, Rec Room, which is available on basically every console and mobile platform now, says its VR userbase is a “pretty low percentage” of overall active players—something that Meta likely also suspects as it marches ever closer to its goal of establishing its post-Facebook metaverse presence.

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Meta Teases Horizon Will Get A ‘Web Version’

Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth referenced “Horizon’s web version” launching in future.

Horizon is Meta’s brand for its suite of “metaverse” social VR apps: Horizon WorldsHorizon WorkroomsHorizon Venues, and the soon-to-launch Horizon Home. Each uses your Meta Avatar and each currently requires an active Facebook account for access.

Bosworth confirmed to UploadVR he was referring to Horizon Worlds. He made the remark in a Twitter thread defending Meta’s 47% take of virtual item sales on the platform. Worlds works similarly to Rec Room, allowing users to create their own social games and experiences inside VR by using controllers to place & manipulate shapes, and using a visual scripting system to add dynamic functionality.

That 47% take is a combination of the 30% Quest platform commerce fee and the Horizon fee, which is 25% of the remainder. Bosworth referenced “When Horizon’s web version launches” to point out that on the web, an open protocol which has no inherent commerce fee, only the 25% Horizon fee would apply.

Back in February Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors his company plans to launch “a version of Horizon on mobile” this year. In both cases it’s unclear exactly how Horizon Worlds, an app designed specifically for VR, would work on these radically different platforms. This may be why the executives use the phrase “a version”. It’s possible mobile and web users will be spectators unable to create worlds or engage in all interactions, which would make these versions act as marketing for the full VR experience.

Rec Room Passes 3 Million VR Monthly Active Users

Social app Rec Room now has over three million monthly active users in VR.

That stat was revealed by the developer’s Shawn Whiting, who also confirmed that the majority of those users are on Meta Quest 2 headsets. That’s a leap of two million users in a little over a year; back in January 2021 the company confirmed it had surpassed a million monthly active users in VR.

In February 2022, Meta confirmed that its Horizon Worlds and Venues apps had hit a combined 300,000 monthly users, though the Worlds app is currently only available in North America and Canada and only on Quest 2 and Rift headsets. Horizon Worlds is similar to Rec Room in that it’s a social space that allows users to create worlds and items together. Last month Meta even released a video of Horizon Worlds recreating paintballing, an activity already popular within Rec Room.

“We’re very happy with the VR growth but at this point VR is a pretty low percentage of our monthly players,” Whiting said in a prepared statement. “Rec Room is seeing much more growth on iOS, Android, PlayStation, and Xbox due to there being billions of those devices out there collectively.”

Rec Room began as a VR-optional app all the way back in 2016 and quickly established itself as one of the biggest social experiences for headsets. Flatscreen versions are available alongside VR support on PC and PS4 but, in 2019, the company began rolling out to non-VR platforms like iPhone and Xbox. Fans are still hoping for a Switch release, though nothing’s been confirmed at this point.

Virtual Social Platform ‘Rec Room’ Hits 3 Million Monthly Active VR Users

Rec Room a social VR game which also supports non-VR devices like PC, console, and mobile phones, has reached an impressive 3 million monthly active VR users, which the company says is just a fraction of its total monthly active usership.

Rec Room has continued its impressive growth, having tripled its monthly active VR user count in the last year.

Key Data Points:
  • Rec Room has peaked at 3 million monthly active VR users, up from 1 million monthly active VR users about a year ago
  • A “majority” of active VR users are using Quest 2
  • Active VR players represent a “pretty low percentage” of overall active players, which access the game through platforms like iOS, Android, PlayStation, and Xbox

The company’s Head of Influencers & Partners, Shawn Whiting, confirmed to Road to VR that the app peaked at 3 million monthly active VR users “shortly after the holidays.” Though the holiday season surely provided a boost which has likely settled down since, the figure is three times the 1 million monthly active VR users the company saw around the holidays last year.

That’s great growth for the game’s VR segment, but impressively, Whiting says it’s just a fraction of the game’s overall monthly active usership.

“We’re very happy with the VR growth but at this point VR is a pretty low percentage of our monthly players. Rec Room is seeing much more growth on iOS, Android, PlayStation, and Xbox due to there being billions of those devices out there collectively.”

Image courtesy Against Gravity

Rec Room launched way back in 2016 as a PC VR-only title. Since then the company has massively expanded the platforms the game can be played on, both in the VR space and outside of it, being available on every major headset and non-VR gaming platform (except for Nintendo Switch). That’s made it a great place for VR and non-VR players alike to come together on the shared social platform which is built upon user generated content that’s incentivized by an in-game economy which allows creators to cash-out for real money.

Among VR users on Rec Room, a “majority” are using Quest 2, says Whiting.

And that’s likely what has driven most of the growth in VR usership on Rec Room, considering that holiday 2021 was a huge moment for the headset.

The timing of the company’s announcement seems unlikely to be coincidental with Meta just this week announcing it’s testing selling tools inside Horizon Worlds, a competitor to Rec Room.

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Quest ‘Invite Links’ Are the Easiest Way to Invite Friends to VR, But Few Seem to Know They Exist

Last year Meta added the ability to send simple invite links to your friends which would bring you together into the same place in VR. It’s a great way to easily join up with friends in VR, but it seems very few people know the feature exists.

Back in August of 2021, Meta extended its Oculus platform capabilities to allows users to create invite links from their smartphone and then send the link to their friends—by text, email, DM, etc—that when clicked would automatically launch the correct app and send all users into the same space to play together.

And it works great. I’ve been using the feature heavily with Beat Saber to join up with friends for multiplayer sessions. It’s as easy as saying “Hey meet me in Beat Saber in 20 minutes, here’s the link.”

And though the feature requires per-app implementation from developers, many of Quest’s most popular social games are already supported, like Walkabout Mini Golf, VRChat, Rec Room, Demeo, Horizon Worlds, and more. Invite links work with Rift apps too as long as both you and your friends are using the Oculus PC version of the app (or the game supports cross-platform play between Quest and Oculus PC).

But from my experience with VR users both personally and professionally, very few seem to know that ‘invite links’ exists at all. And it’s hard to blame them… the feature is fairly hidden and Meta doesn’t do a good job of telling users what invite links do or how to use them. So here I’m going to explain how they work, and why it’s problematic that more people don’t know about them.

How to Use Invite Links on Quest

If you want to create a Quest invite link to join friends in VR, start by launching your Oculus smartphone app.

  1. In the Oculus smartphone app click the ‘Menu’ button (three lines icon)
  2. Select ‘Invite Links’
  3. Select a supported app (ie: Walkabout Mini Golf)
  4. Select the destination that you want to go within the app (ie: the specific course within Walkabout Mini Golf that you want to play)
  5. Select ‘Create Link’
  6. Use the ‘Share’ button to share the link through whatever channel you’d like
  7. Use the ‘Launch’ button to launch the app you chose on your headset and join your friends

Invite links are the perfect way to pre-plan a VR session with your friends and easily meet in the same place without fiddling with any menus or friends lists. Once you’re ready to play, press the ‘Launch’ button from the invite link and your headset will load the selected game and should automatically send you to the same location as your friends. Invite links on Quest are valid for 24 hours from their creation.

Why Don’t More People Know About Invite Links and Why Does it Matter?

Well, I think Meta is primarily to blame here. The Oculus smartphone app interface is far from perfect, and it confusingly separates the invite link functionality from your friends list.

Most users who intend to invite a friend to join them would naturally navigate to their friends list to find the friend they want to send an invite to. However, if you go to your friends list in the Oculus smartphone app (not so intuitively hidden in the ‘Menu’ section and called ‘People’), you actually can’t invite friends to a game that way.

Invite links (also hidden in the ‘Menu’ section) are a totally separate construct, and, as far as I’ve seen, they’re never tutorialized. So unless you know what an ‘invite link’ is at first glance, you might have just glossed over that button. If you want to invite friends from your Oculus friends list then you’d need to create an invite link first, then go back to your friends list and send the link as an Oculus DM. It works but it could be a much smoother and more unified process.

So why does it matter that more people don’t know about invite links? Well, beyond the obvious (it’s a hassle-free way to get together with friends in VR that everyone can benefit from), if few people know they exist then few people are using them. And if few people are using them, then VR developers won’t be particularly encouraged to spend time adding the feature to their games. After all, if hardly anyone is using invite links, why bother?

An ecosystem where all Quest apps support invite links (and by extension Destinations, Deep Linking, and Rich Presence features), would make it far more fluid to connect with friends in VR and even move from one app to another together.

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I hope you’ll give invite links a try, and if you find them convenient, spread the word! Over time hopefully we’ll see more and more Quest apps support the feature making it easier for everyone to play in VR together.

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