Facebook's virtual reality inroads are slowly but progressively coming to fruition, at least initially. It's now set to release Facebook 360, a Samsung Gear VR app meant to view 360-degree content that's been populating its platform of late.
Until now, there hasn't been a streamlined, fluid way of watching 360-degree videos or panning around 360-photos that's become quite ubiquitous on Facebook thanks to publishers, organizations, and other tech-forward companies looking to tap the virtual reality schtick.
"Ever since 360 photos and videos came to Facebook, people around the world have embraced these new formats," Facebook wrote in a blog post. "360 can take you into the action with your favorite sports teams, bring you behind the scenes at awards shows, transport you to beautiful places around the world, and put you at the center of breaking news moments like never before."
Facebook Has Over 1 Million 360-Degree Videos On The Site
Facebook boasts that to date, there are over 1 million 360-degree videos and over 25 million 260-degree photos published on the site, and the numbers are still growing. At launch, the Facebook 360 app will only be available on the Gear VR headset, which users may download via the Oculus store.
Facebook 360 Features
Facebook 360 comes with feeds. Four of them, to be exact — all of which deliver VR content to Gear VR owners one way or another. There's an "Explore" tab that will enable users to peruse the site's most popular 360-degree content. The "Following" tab will cull content from friends, and "Saved" lets users view previously cached 360-degree content for later viewings. Finally, there's "Timeline," which lets users view their own content in one place.
Facebook 360 will also let users react to videos and images, much like the desktop experience Facebook gives. Saving content is also an option, and Facebook said that more social features are headed toward the app down the line.
More than 5 million Gear VR headsets have been sold to date, the newest iteration of which Samsung recently unveiled. Oculus, which Facebook owns, powers the Gear VR headset. Facebook could have opened 360 up to its own Oculus Rift headsets, but by allowing the Gear VR crowd into the mix, more people can jump on the 360-degree bandwagon and experience viewing that type of content as intended.
Facebook's VR Shake-Ups
The launch of Facebook 360 follows Facebook's recent changes on its VR front, including the addition of Hugo Barra to lead VR, following Barra's year at Xiaomi and Google. Facebook 360 is also one of the last projects of James Yu, former Parse cofounder, developed as a product manager on all things 360, as noted by VentureBeat. Yu recently announced his exit from Facebook.
Facebook 360 is an introduction of sorts to Facebook's bold ambition of bringing VR into popular speak, looking to tap its user base to push the VR initiative forward. Facebook 360 is a first step, but a significant one at that. The onslaught of 360-degree content should feed the significance of Facebook 360. But for long-term prospects, there needs to be a steep demand for both 360-degree content and the mobile VR platform itself.
Have you tried the Facebook 360 app? What are your thoughts so far? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!