Facebook Launches VR Ads Test in Oculus Headsets

Will the next big advance in VR be… virtual-reality commercials?

Facebook announced that it is kicking off a “small test” of in-headset ads for Oculus VR devices. The ads will first appear in “Blaston,” a dueling-shooter VR game from Resolution Games, as well as titles from a few other developers rolling out over the coming weeks.

“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,” Facebook Reality Labs wrote in a blog post announcing the test. “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.”

Facebook Reality Labs, the R&D group that encompasses the company’s VR, AR and Oculus engineers and developers, also said it is investing in “unobtrusive ads” among various formats that are unique to VR. The in-headset ad test comes after FRL last month announced that it was starting to test ads in the Oculus mobile app, as a way for developers to showcase their VR applications.

According to Facebook Reality Labs, Oculus ads will follow Facebook’s advertising principles. Marketers will be able to buy ads targeted based on certain anonymized user attributes. In addition, FRL said, users will be able hide specific ads or hide ads from individual advertisers completely. Users can also access more detailed ad preferences from any ad via the “Why am I seeing this ad?” interface.

During the test of ads in Oculus apps, Facebook will collect certain information like whether you interacted with an ad and if so, how (e.g., if you clicked on the ad for more information or if you hid the ad). However, beyond that, the test “doesn’t change how your Oculus data is processed or how it informs ads,” FRL said in the blog post.

The social-media giant noted that it will not serve ads based on information processed and stored locally on the headset (e.g. weight, height or gender info that you provide to Oculus Move or raw images from the sensors on Oculus Quest); nor does it use the content of conversations with people on apps like Facebook Messenger, Parties, and chats or your voice interactions to target ads. In addition, Facebook Reality Labs said, it has no plans to target ads using movement data from Oculus headsets (which it uses to do things like make your avatar duck while playing a game).

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