June 16, 2021 – Last month, Facebook announced that it was starting to test ads in the Oculus mobile app to give developers a new way to showcase their virtual reality (VR) applications. Today, the company has shared a look at the next phase of its VR advertising exploration by sharing a small test of in-headset ads.
Today’s ad experiment announcement is simply a test with a few apps, beginning with VR game Blaston from Resolution Games, as well as a couple of other developers that will be rolling out over the coming weeks. However, Facebook stated that once it incorporates feedback from developers and the community, it will provide more details on when ads may become more broadly available across the Oculus Platform and in the Oculus mobile app.
Facebook stated that its primary focus at Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) is to bring more people into VR, advance the consumer experience, and make progress on its longer-term augmented reality (AR) initiatives. The company is also exploring new ways for developers to generate revenue, which forms a key part of how Facebook is ensuring it is creating a self-sustaining platform that can support a variety of business models, as well as helping it continue to make innovative AR/VR hardware more accessible to more people.
Oculus ads will follow Facebook’s advertising principles, the first of which is “build for people first.” Therefore, the company is including controls that allow people to manage the ads they see, hide specific ads, or hide completely ads from a specific advertiser. Users can also access more detailed Ad Preferences from any ad via the “Why am I seeing this ad?” interface.
The company noted that the addition of ads on the Oculus Platform doesn’t change its privacy or advertising policies. While testing ads in Oculus apps, Facebook will get new information like whether users have interacted with an ad and if so, how—for example, if they clicked on the ad for more information or chose to hide the ad entirely. Outside of that, Facebook’s ad testing doesn’t change how a user’s Oculus data is processed or how it informs ads, according to the company.
Some key points to note with regards to the data that Oculus uses:
- Information processed and stored locally on a headset is not used to target ads (e.g. raw images from device sensors, weight, height or gender information);
- The company currently has no plans to use movement data to target ads;
- The content of conversations on apps like Messenger, Parties, and chats or voice interactions is not used to target ads. This includes any audio the microphone picks up when using the voice commands feature.
For a full breakdown of Oculus privacy settings, users can visit the Privacy Center here.
For now, Facebook states that it is currently investing in unobtrusive ads as a new way for developers to build businesses. Plus, it is also exploring new ad formats that are unique to VR, although the company is not quite ready to test them yet.
Facebook commented in a blog post: “While this is an early test, we’re excited by the opportunity to open up new revenue streams for developers and as a result, broaden the type of apps and content on the Oculus platform. A more profitable content ecosystem is a critical step on the path to consumer VR becoming truly mainstream. And that’s something we think is worth celebrating.”
Although it is not likely that Oculus users will necessarily be “celebrating” the inclusion of ads into their VR experiences, one can’t really be surprised that the company is making this step, given that Facebook’s business model is built around targeted advertising based on user data.
For more information on Oculus from Facebook, please visit the company’s website.
Image credit: Facebook
About the author
Sam is the Founder and Managing Editor of Auganix. With a background in research and report writing, he has been covering XR industry news for the past seven years.