Mark Zuckerberg made a surprise appearance at Samsung’s Mobile World Congress event, touting the rise of virtual reality and Facebook’s new social VR team.
Appearing on stage as the audience removed their VR helmets after a Samsung demo (see video captured below), Zuckerberg also revealed that Facebook will be bringing its dynamic streaming technology for 360 video to Gear VR.
This technology allows significant performance upgrades to streaming content by only playing back what’s in view of the headset at any given time rather than processing the entire 360 sphere of video at once.
Facebook says their efforts have “quadrupled the resolution quality of 360 streaming video in VR by reducing the amount of required network bandwidth by 4x.”
View some samples shown at the event below:
“VR is the next platform where anyone can experience anything they want,” he said. “It’s going to change the way we live and work and communicate.”
Zuckerburg pictured sitting at a virtual campfire with friends around the world, watching a movie together, or sharing his baby’s first steps with a 360 degree view.
Beyond gaming- VR as a social experience (and operating system?)
The social network founder announced that Facebook is building a social VR team to focus “entirely on exploring the future of social interaction in VR”, as it prepares for the consumer launch of its Oculus Rift VR headset.
In a blog post, Zuckerberg said: “This team will explore how people can connect and share using today’s VR technology, as well as long-term possibilities as VR evolves into an increasingly important computing platform. They’ll will work closely with Oculus and other teams at Facebook to build the foundation for tomorrow’s social VR experiences on all platforms.”
Zuckerberg also talked up the popularity of 360-degree videos on Facebook, and on Samsung’s Gear VR headset – which uses technology from Oculus.
More affordable alternative to Oculus
The tie up between Facebook and Samsung is mutually beneficial-. Samsung has offered Facebook and Oculus a connection point to more causal VR consumers through their widespread mobile ecosystem.
With Oculus’s Rift hitting shelves at $599 and requiring a hefty gaming PC to boot, chances are limited that many will have immediate access to that brand of virtual reality. The $99 Gear VR, on the other hand, is bound to be the first step in getting consumers intrigued and comfortable with the technology.
“People have already watched more than a million hours of video in Gear VR,”explained a blog post from Facebook following the event. “Already, millions of people watch 360 videos on Facebook every day. More than 20,000 have been uploaded, with hundreds more added daily.”