Earlier this month Facebook launched “Live 360”, a new feature for users to livestream videos in a 360-degree view. The same experience is offered with cheaper, mobile VR headsets like Google Cardboard: basically, you can rotate your head/phone to explore a landscape, but not much else. While expensive headsets are far more interactive, Facebook’s investment is a sign that virtual reality is making its way into the mainstream. It also suggests that VR could be used for some social aspects.
National Geographic posted Facebook’s first 360 video, a Mars simulation based in Utah. The tool could be great for brands like NatGeo and GoPro in terms of marketing and increasing traffic. 360 is set to allow users to share panoramic videos, too, but you’ll want to invest in a specialized camera for the best quality. 360 takes Facebook’s new-ish livestream feature to a more immersive level.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has shown interest in the world of virtual reality. Back in 2014, Zuckerberg announced that the company had acquired Oculus Rift. Typically, virtual reality is associated with gaming, but Facebook’s acquisition is an indicator of social aspects for VR that go beyond the multi-player realm.
Live 360 is currently limited to verified Facebook accounts and doesn’t allow for a totally interactive VR experience. Of course, it was just released! In the future, we can expect to see 360 videos from friends, too–so prepare to be even more jealous of your classmate’s trip to Thailand once she shares it in 360 video. The feature could also allow prospective buyers to check out rentals and vacation destinations before they book.
Finally, Facebook’s interest (and Google’s, Microsoft’s, and Apple’s) shows that virtual reality is on its way to the mainstream, and that there are many possibilities.