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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shows how it's gonna make virtual reality social using the Oculus Rift

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed off live VR chat using the Oculus Rift on Thursday, with his own Justin Timberlake look-a-like avatar.

On stage at the Oculus Connect 3 conference, Zuckerberg demonstrated the Oculus Touch controller's emotion options, which make avatars show facial expressions, letting you look surprised, happy or confused in VR.

"Eventually, the goal is to achieve most of what you saw today through gestural tracking and voice analysis," a spokeswoman for Facebook said.

The demo showed several features, including changing backgrounds to live locations like inside Facebook's offices or at Zuckerberg's home, where he was able to check on his dog, Beast.

While at his home in VR, his wife Priscilla Chan called in through Facebook Messenger, leading to a selfie -- with a virtual selfie stick -- of Zuckerberg, his wife in a chat box and their dog.

The event, Oculus’s third ever developer conference, comes as it faces fierce competition in the VR market.

Earlier this week Google showed the first version of Daydream VR, its headset which is powered by mobile phone.

And next week Sony is set to launch its PlayStation VR headset. It will work with the PlayStation 4 console, making it a considerably cheaper than the Oculus - though not as powerful.

At the higher-end of the VR market, HTC Vive has been well-received by gamers and has the backing of PC gaming giant Valve.

It leaves Facebook in need of a holy grail headset that offers high-end visuals and interaction at a price more akin to the lower end models currently on the market.

That’s being worked on now, Mr Zuckerberg said.

“We believe that there is a sweet spot - a standalone virtual reality product that is high quality, that is affordable, and you can bring with you out into the world.

"It’s still early, so I don’t want to get your hopes up too much."

The key innovation will be in using Computer Vision Software (CVS), Mr Zuckerberg said. This would enable the headset to see what’s around it and detect its own movements - allowing the wearer to walk around freely.

Currently, the Oculus Rift - and other high-end headsets - use a series of sensors to track the person’s movements around a set area. 

As he has done in the past, Mr Zuckerberg referred to virtual reality as the next major computing platform.

On stage, he demonstrated a VR environment for interacting with friends.

Mr Zuckerberg was placed in a virtual environment with two colleagues. Each could see an avatar of each other - a cartoon-like figure designed to resemble the real person. 

Using the Oculus Rift’s handheld touch controllers, each avatar could be controlled to show a range of emotions such as laughter and shock. Voice sentiment analysis was also used to convey emotions on the avatars.

In the same demo, the surrounding environment was changed to a 360-degree video of Mr Zuckerberg’s front room - along with his dog, Beast. Here, Mr Zuckerberg was able to take a real-world video call from his wife, Priscilla Chan.

It was a baffling array of technologies laid on top of each other, and an intriguing glimpse into what a social network like Facebook might become in the virtual world. 

Oculus is pushing for a more social environment on VR, with its Oculus Avatar feature, allowing users to create a digital version of themselves and interact with their friends from anywhere in the world.

"This is the first time that tech has made this level of social presence possible," said Lauren Vegter, Oculus' social product team leader.

She introduced Parties and Rooms, two new features that let people come together in a VR lounge, where they can watch videos, listen to music and hang out.

Rooms will be Oculus' core spot for the device's social apps.

Social integration was the focus in the future of the Oculus platform, leading the demonstration on Thursday, taking charge over VR game titles.

Facebook founder will have a task on his hands to convince users that hanging out with friends virtually can be a comfortable experience.

“It’s more of a statement of intent then something consumers will be able to get their heads around today,” said Mr Wood from CCS Insight.

"Virtual social presence is really Mark Zuckerberg’s big commercial bet as a future chapter for Facebook.

"We’ll look back on today and see that it’s a pivotal moment in how Facebook envisions VR in its mass consumer offering.”

In the run up to Christmas, Oculus is putting out some long-awaited pieces of hardware.

Its handheld Touch controllers, first announced more than a year ago, will be released on 6 December, and will cost $199.

Additional motion sensors, which will allow “room scale” VR so players can move around more freely, will soon be able to be bought separately for $79 (£63).

There will be 35 new gaming titles available when Touch launches, Oculus said, a number which may rise.

Of the new offerings, it was Epic Games' Robot Recall, a comedic take on a robot revolution, that stood out.

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