Facebook has devoted major resources and billions of dollars to virtual reality, but there has been a pretty clear line between what happens in the main Facebook app and what happens on the Oculus Rift and Gear VR.
Today, Facebook is intertwining the real and virtual worlds of Facebook a bit by launching its first dedicated app, Facebook 360. The app will serve as a hub for the 360 video and photo content posted to the site. Facebook boasts that there have ben more than one million 360 videos posted to the site alongside more than 25 million 360 photos to date. At launch, the Facebook 360 app will be available only for the Gear VR mobile headset. Users can download the app in the Oculus Store.
At launch, Facebook 360 will feature four main “feeds,” delivering content into users’ eyeballs from closer than ever. The “Explore” tab will give users a bird’s-eye look at the 360 content that is popular across Facebook from a variety of media companies and creators; meanwhile, the “Following” tab will let you dial into the content being produced by your friends. “Saved” gives you an opportunity to experience 360 content you may have seen on the web in a more immersive in-headset experience, while “Timeline” lets you check out your own 360 photos and videos all in one place.
The app will allow users to post reactions to content, while also being able to save and share 360 photos and videos. Facebook said in a blog post that more social features are on the way for the company’s first official app.
The wall of separation between Facebook and Oculus is a pretty murky one. With this latest addition, Facebook is asserting its video strength over the Oculus Video app, which has previously been the go-to spot for Gear VR users to engage with videos from Facebook.
In January, Facebook named Xiaomi’s Hugo Barra as its VP of VR. The appointment was a surprising end to a leadership shakeup at Oculus that began when CEO Brendan Iribe announced suddenly that he would be stepping down as the company’s chief executive and would be leading Oculus’s PC VR division instead.
Facebook also produced two new variants of Facebook 360 surround 360 Camera x24 and x6 to create a better experience in the word of social VR. If viewed through a VR headset, videos and pictures shot using the 24x camera will let a user view all angles with perfect clarity. The immersive view will allow objects to move with the tilting of one’s head, giving a real-life experience, claims Facebook. There won’t be any borders, and one will feel more like floating around an area.
While Facebook continues to work on its own suite of social VR features, it’s clear that the company has a grand vision in mind for bringing its nearly 2 billion users into the world of VR, and this app may be one of their earliest steps in doing so.