Facebook tests showing ads within the Oculus Quest because of course they will
When Facebook acquired Instagram back in 2012, Mark Zuckerberg pledged to keep the photo-sharing app independent. “We need to be mindful about keeping and building on Instagram’s strengths and features rather than just trying to integrate everything into Facebook,” he wrote in a statement at the time. Then, following the WhatsApp acquisition in 2014, WhatsApp’s co-founder Jan Koum had said, “WhatsApp will remain autonomous and operate independently…There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product.” Today, we’re well aware of how meaningless these statements are. But back then, people had some hope that Facebook wouldn’t interfere with these companies’ operations.
That’s why when Facebook acquired Oculus later in 2014, some users believed co-founder Palmer Luckey’s promise of Oculus’s independence under the Facebook umbrella. At the time, Luckey had promised that Oculus would never require users or developers to have a Facebook account, and it would not push ads “or do anything invasive.” Facebook broke one of these promises in August last year, when it announced that it would require Oculus users to log in with a Facebook account starting October 2020. Now, the social media giant is breaking the other promise, as it will soon begin testing in-headset VR ads.
In a recent tweet, Andrew Bosworth, VP of Facebook Reality Labs, revealed that the company will start testing in-headset ads with a few developers in the coming weeks. Facebook’s idea behind this move is to “help developers generate revenue and help people find great experiences at better prices.”
We’re starting a small test of in-headset ads with a few developers in the coming weeks. We want to help developers generate revenue and help people find great experiences at better prices—this is a part of how we’ll create a healthy, self-sustaining platform for everyone.
— Boz (@boztank) June 16, 2021
In a blog post on the matter, Oculus further reveals that the in-headset ad experiment will begin with Blaston from Resolution Games. It will add a couple of other developers over the coming weeks. “For now, this is a test with a few apps — once we see how this test goes and incorporate feedback from developers and the community, we’ll provide more details on when ads may become more broadly visible across the Oculus Platform and in the Oculus mobile app, as well as guidance for businesses and developers interested in advertising on Oculus,” the post adds.
The post also highlights how Oculus and Facebook plan to use data generated from the in-headset ads to deliver targeted ads to users. It states that the companies will only use information gathered from your interaction with specific ads, and it won’t process your Oculus data for targeted ads. It further adds that it won’t use the following Oculus data to target ads:
- We do not use information processed and stored locally on your headset to target ads. Processing and storing information on the device means it doesn’t leave your headset or reach Facebook servers, so it can’t be used for advertising. Examples of data that are processed on device include raw images from the sensors on Quest and images of your hands (if you choose to enable hand tracking), which are both overwritten instantaneously. Examples of data that are stored locally on-device include any weight, height, or gender information that you choose to provide to Oculus Move.
- We take extra precautions around the use of movement data like minimizing what we need to deliver a safe and immersive VR experience—for example, to keep you safe from bumping into real-world objects and making your avatar duck while playing a game—and we have no plans to use movement data to target ads.
- Finally, we do not use the content of your conversations with people on apps like Messenger, Parties, and chats or your voice interactions to target ads. This includes any audio your microphone picks up when you use our voice commands feature, like “Hey Facebook, show me who’s online.”
The post further reveals that Oculus is also investing in unobtrusive ads for VR and new ad formats specific to the platform. However, they’re in the early stages of development, so you won’t see them on your VR headset anytime soon.
What’s your take on Oculus’ in-headset ads experiment? Do you think Oculus’ move to push ads on such expensive hardware is justified? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.