Facebook may be working on a new kind of virtual reality.
The company is creating a standalone app for immersive 360-degree videos, according to areport in the Wall Street Journal.
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The app, still in an early phase of development, is compatible with both iOS and Android, according to the report and will offer a similar viewing experience as other apps that use 360 degree videos, like YouTube. “It is unclear when or if the app will launch,” the Journal says, citing unnamed sources familiar with the project.
A Facebook representative declined to comment on the report.
Spherical videos, such as those offered by Google’s Spotlight Stories and Street View apps, offer an immersive 360-degree viewing experience that allow you to use your smartphone as a window through which you view the videos. Changing the angle at which you hold your device shows a different area of the video.
Though the videos don’t offer the same level of interaction as full virtual reality experience, spherical videos can be seen as an easily accessible entry point to VR, which is still unfamiliar to most people.
Facebook is already known to be experimenting with these types of videos. The company unveiled spherical videos for News Feed earlier this year at its F8 developer conference. Those videos, which can be viewed directly from News Feed, will also be compatible with VR headsets, including Facebook’s Oculus Rift.
Though these videos have yet to move beyond a testing phase, it makes sense that Facebook would consider turning the experience into a standalone smartphone app. During Facebook’s @Scale engineering conference Monday, Jay Parikh, the company’s VP of global engineering and infrastructure, noted that virtual reality and augmented reality are the next logical steps for the company as its platform continues to evolve.
“When Facebook was founded, it was primarily a text based site: there was status posts and there were wall posts,” Panikh said. “We’ve moved in to a world where most of the world today is focused on photos. But we’re quickly moving into this world where I think, in the next couple years, most of the experience on Facebook is going to be about video.
“It doesn’t just stop with videos … what we see happening in the next couple years is bringing augmented reality and virtual reality to the experience that is on Facebook.”