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Meta opens access to Horizon Worlds

After the company changed its name, Meta finally opened up access to its VR social platform Horizon Worlds. Starting Thursday, people 18 years and older in the U.S. and Canada will be able to access the free Quest app without an invitation.
Horizon World is Meta's first attempt to release something similar to CEO Mark Zuckerberg's vision for Metaverse. This is a vast multiplayer game platform that combines Roblox and the OASIS VR world in Ready Player One. Originally called Horizon​​n, it requires a Facebook account and allows you to hang out with up to 20 people in a virtual space at once.
"Now we can open up and say we have interesting things that people can do"
Horizon Worlds was first announced as a private beta in September 2019, and it has now evolved from a Minecraft-like environment that is mainly used to build games to more social platforms. Its thousands of Beta testers regularly host comedy shows, movie nights, and meditation classes. They also made exquisite items, such as a replica of Ghostbusters' Ecto-1. "Now we can open up and say we have interesting things that people can do," Meta's Horizon Vice President Vivek Sharma told me.
In the Horizon Worlds demo, some Meta employees at Plaza greeted me. Plaza is a central gathering place for entering custom worlds and games built by users. We first visited a creator’s lounge, where you can try custom items that are being built, such as bows and arrows or paper airplane launchers, and participate in construction competitions to win cash prizes. Then we jumped to another world and the team played a battle royale shooting game. After that, I got a demo of Horizon's build tools that allow you to create worlds and projects from scratch.
A key part of Horizon Worlds is the ability to write basic code to set the rules for how objects work, such as a gun fired when the trigger is pressed or a ball that bounces when it touches a surface. "Attaching behavior to objects is one of the biggest innovations I am proud of for the team," Sharma said.
He said that so far, Meta employees have been making script blocks at the request of beta testers, and the company eventually plans to release a free library. The object asset library will also be launched soon. Currently, the coding of script blocks is done entirely in VR, but in the end, Meta plans to let them be built from desktop computers.
For VR environments like Horizon World, security is a big issue, where you can easily interact with people you don’t know. Earlier this month, a Beta tester posted on Facebook's official Horizon group about how her avatar was groped by strangers. "Sexual harassment is not a joke on the ordinary Internet, but another layer has been added to VR to make the incident more intense," she wrote. "Not only was I fumbled last night, but there were other people who supported this behavior, which made me feel isolated in the square."
Sharma called the incident "absolutely regrettable" and stated that after Meta reviewed the incident, the company determined that Beta testers did not take advantage of the security features built into Horizon Worlds, including the ability to prevent someone from interacting with you. (When you are in Horizon, the scrolling buffer of what you see will be saved locally on the Oculus headset. If there is an incident report, it will then be sent to Meta for manual review.) "This is still very important to us. Good feedback, because I want to make [blocking function] very easy and easy to find," he said.
Another unique aspect of Horizon Worlds is the human guide, when new users are transferred from Plaza to different worlds, they will welcome new users. These guides are advanced users of Meta staff training to learn about best practices for navigating the horizon and following its rules of conduct. Sharma called it "one of the areas where we are doing unscalable things to keep the environment a healthy place for the community."
Currently, no matter as a creator, guide or player, there is no way to make money in the horizon world. The plan will eventually combine it with Horizon Venues (a standalone experience for holding large-scale events in VR) and Horizon Workrooms (its VR work collaboration software). Before increasing monetization, Meta hopes that the world-building aspect of Worlds will attract people. "The act of creating oneself is part of the appeal of this thing," Sharma said. "Creation is a product."
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