New steps towards the future of VR

22nd February 2016
Jordan Mulcare

Virtual reality is already something people can touch and feel with the Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus. Gear VR is 'the best mobile VR experience in the world' because it combines the VR software, built by Facebook’s Oculus team, with world-class mobile hardware, built by Samsung.

Since Gear VR launched in November 2015, the response has been incredibly strong: More than 200 games and apps are now available for the platform in the Oculus store, and people have already watched more than a million hours of video in Gear VR.

Facebook has also been developing new technology that will make video in virtual reality work even better. 360 video on Facebook is the first step — it allows you to look around and feel like you’re present while watching a video, whether it’s surfing in Tahiti or exploring the surface of Mars. Already, millions of people watch 360 videos on Facebook every day. More than 20,000 have been uploaded, with hundreds more added daily. And the company has only just begun to explore the possibilities with this format.

The company is now taking an important step toward improving 360 video in VR: It's powerful dynamic streaming technology for 360 video is coming to Gear VR. It’s a more efficient way of delivering 360 videos, showing only the pixels you’re actually looking at in the highest quality, instead of delivering the entire 360 video in high resolution. To make this work, we create dozens of variants for every 360 video that gets uploaded to Facebook, each tailored to a specific viewing angle, and then as you watch the video, it rapidly adjust which variant we display based on where you’re looking. By doing this, the company quadrupled the resolution quality of 360 streaming video in VR by reducing the amount of required network bandwidth by four times, so videos look clearer and play faster. Facebook is excited to bring this to Gear VR in the next few weeks.

As it continue to make big breakthroughs in the technology behind VR, it's also investing in efforts to explore immersive new VR experiences that will help people connect and share. The company have already helped people connect in a wide variety of ways on mobile devices — ranging from Facebook and Instagram to Messenger and WhatsApp — and now it wants to apply that same approach to the new medium of VR. In the future, VR will enable even more types of connection — like the ability for friends who live in different parts of the world to spend time together and feel like they’re really there with each other.

The company has created a Social VR team at Facebook focused entirely on exploring the future of social interaction in VR. This team will explore how people can connect and share using today’s VR technology, as well as long-term possibilites 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.

Facebook's work in VR is still early, and there are a lot of hardware and software challenges that we still need to solve. But it's encouraged by it's progress to date, and excited to continue building VR technology that gives people new ways to connect and share.

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