Just over a year ago Franklin oversaw the rollout of Facebook Spaces – the social network’s first effort to show the outside world how you might hang out with friends in a virtual world. It features avatars that you can customise based on your Facebook photos, and a few activities, such as doodling in 3D with a giant marker, that you can share with a buddy if you can manage to find one who also has an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR headset to interact with in Spaces.
At Facebook’s annual developer conference in San Jose, California, on Tuesday, Franklin showed what she and her team have been up to since then: things like the ability to take 3D objects posted within your News Feed to Spaces, and a demo of an app that uses photos and videos to create 3D replicas of rooms that you can explore with others.
On the sidelines of the conference, Franklin talked about what she has learned since Facebook Spaces debuted last May, and about how important it is to make all kinds of people feel welcome in Facebook VR.
Spaces has been out for a year. What is one thing that you have learnt since?
People really care about their advantages. Which I don’t think is terribly surprising, but is reassuring and awesome. It is great that you want to have a say in your identity, that you care that it has enough customisation that it feels like you.
You said last year that you kept Spaces simple on purpose. One common criticism that there aren’t enough things to do in there. Is it too simple?
I think it was not surprising that we got the feedback we got, which was: “There is not enough to do here.” But I think it was an important lesson for us to learn.
We are sort of scrambling to give you more to do. That is legitimately something people will say – “I don’t know what to do next, or I don’t have something to do next” – and we are trying to do as much as we can to figure out what those things might be.
Do you feel like designers are starting to think more about making the Facebook VR headsets comfortable for all kinds of users?
I do. It says that this isn’t just for niche technophiles that want to feel cool. This is technology that is important for everyone, so we want to make everyone feel like they should be using it.
And its clear whether somebody didn’t think about you when you put something on. I am left handed so it constantly happens with scissors and things – its like: clearly you didn’t want left handed people to use this. It kind of makes you go okay, you don’t want me here. I think this is really, really key message: we want people in this technology because we think it’s valuable for them.