Earlier last week, Oculus announced a handful of new changes to Gear VR, its mobile headset for Samsung phones, along with one big new Facebook feature created with virtual reality (VR) in mind: the arrival of 360-degree photo capability in Facebook’s News Feed.
Soon, anyone will be able to upload 360-degree photos to Facebook’s News Feed using a panorama app, a photo sphere, or a supported camera like the Ricoh Theta S and the Gear 360.
Facebook Explores a New Dimension
The best of those photos will be collected in a section of the Oculus 360 Photos app, which you’ll be able to explore from your headset. 360 video is already supported in a similar way, but photos are dramatically easier to create, and should catch on more quickly.
Facebook’s upcoming “360 Photos” feature will let people upload flat panoramas like those taken on iPhones, Google Photo Spheres or photos from 360 cameras. Facebook will then morph them into 360 Photos for News Feed where users will be able to hold and drag to pan around the photos, or move their heads to look around them on the Gear VR.
You’ll also be able to explore Facebook 360 photos in VR from the Oculus 360 Photos app. On Samsung phones, when viewing a 360 photo, there will be a button in the top left corner that says “View in VR.” If you tap on it and insert your phone into your Gear VR, you can see the 360 photo in VR.
The Oculus Experience
The team at Oculus seems to be focused on one thing above all: giving you stuff to do in VR. A million people tried the Gear VR last month, the company says, and there are now more than 250 apps available for the platform.
80 percent of people who try on the headset use it to watch video,” says Oculus Head of Video Eugene Wei, “and seven of the 10 most popular apps are for video.”
The synergy doesn’t stop there, however. Gear VR owners will also be able to access these same photos directly from the Oculus 360 photos app on their headsets. The app will pull in all of the most popular 360 photos on Facebook that are publicly available to view.
Max Cohen, Oculus’s head of mobile, told a group of journalists earlier this week that the company’s “goal is to get to as many people as possible.”
Internally, they talk about wanting VR to be as ubiquitous as GPS. The fastest way there, of course, is through your phone. Although Mobile VR isn’t as popular as the more expensive gadgets, it’s just as important to the user experience and emerging technologies.
This is one of the first significant Facebook-centric crossovers added to the Oculus platform since the social media giant purchased the company for $2.4 billion in 2014. But Cohen was quick to clarify that users do not and will not be required to sign in or have a Facebook account to use any Oculus devices.
Facebook has had support for 360 videos in the News Feed since September, but good 360 videos are tough to shoot and often require designated hardware. Now a large percentage of smartphones can shoot for VR.
What’s New in the Oculus Mobile App
Also, this week, you’ll start to see a “What’s New” section and a revamped library in the Oculus mobile app to help you find and discover new games and experiences.
With more intuitive content navigation, new ways to explore your photo memories, and exciting new content being developed every day, the VR ecosystem has never been more promising! We can’t wait to bring mobile VR to the next million.”– The Oculus Team
The updated Oculus Home and 360 photo integration do not appear to be on their way to the more powerful Oculus Rift, however, at least not yet. The company may be choosing to start with Gear VR due to its larger install base which was recently revealed to be around 1 million unique users.