Facebook now supports 360-degree videos as the social media giant moves to match its top competitor in video, Google’s YouTube, and prepare for the onset of virtual reality media. YouTube began rolling out 360-degree videos in March, and Facebook has announced its own support of the format in what industry analysts view as a race in preparation for the advent of virtual reality video.
Facebook users will be able to choose the angle from which they want to watch these types of videos by simply dragging their mouse while watching on the web, while users on mobile will be able to swipe or physically turn around their screens.
360 videos are created using specially designed cameras that capture content in 360 degrees simultaneously, giving viewers an option to select their favored angle. Speaking on the Facebook newsroom blog, Maher Shaba, Facebook’s engineering director of video, had this to say about the new format: “In the future, imagine watching 360 videos of a friend’s vacation to a small village in France or a festival in Brazil — you’ll be able to look around and experience it as if you were there.”
The 360-degree video format has been widely viewed as a step towards virtual reality video experiences, in which viewers will be able to immerse themselves in video content. Facebook, which now owns the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, is among some of the world’s major tech companies that are investing heavily in the new medium. Other similar projects include Sony’s Project VR, and Google’s low-cost version, Google Cardboard.
To kick off the introduction of 360-degree video on the Facebook platform, the social media company has partnered with a host of publishers, including Star Wars, GoPro, NBC’s Saturday Night Live, and VICE. The content will begin showing up in users’ feeds, while those with the ability to record videos in 360 degrees will now be able to upload and share them on the site.
While the virtual reality scene is still a young one, with a few filmmakers recording content using the medium, and even fewer with the hardware to view such videos, Facebook’s move presents a much-needed vote of confidence in the industry. With technology giants such as Facebook, Google, and Sony investing in the medium, the way people consume video is set to change forever.