Hold up your phone, spin around, and Facebook’s newest News Feed videos will spin with you, showing you every angle of a scene. Today, Facebook announced that its News Feed will now support 360-degree videos on Android and web, and they’ll work on iOS within a few months. At launch, publishers including Star Wars, Discovery, GoPro, Uninterrupted With LeBron James, NBC’s Saturday Night Live, and VICE will start posting 360 videos.
Facebook tells me the company worked with Oculus to build out 360 video for News Feed. The format could let you share extraordinarily immersive vacation videos and unlock distribution for a burgeoning art form. And just as whenever a new content type comes along, businesses could start exploiting it to make 360 video ads and paying to boost their reach in the feed.
Mark Zuckerberg has long said that Facebook is on a steady march to more vivid content formats, from text to photos to videos to VR. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to just pop your phone into a Google Cardboard or other VR headset and watch these clips by spinning your head. But you can imagine a way to split the view into different lenses for VR headsets could be on the way, though that would require videos to be shot with two lenses side-by-side.
For now, on the web and mobile you’ll be able to swipe around to view different angles, or your phone’s gyroscope will pick up your swiveling motions and convert them into moving your perspective. Facebook actually tip-toed in this direction with its news reader app Paper, which let you tilt your phone back and forth to pan across panoramic photos.
To shoot these videos, you’ll need a somewhat expensive 360 camera like a Bubblcam, which costs $800. That means for now we’re more likely to see bigger brands and publishers sharing these videos than average humans. But as the cost of the technology comes down and phone cameras get better, we could see a democratization of this immersive format.
When Facebook bought Oculus, Zuck talked about the potential for VR to bring people together and make them feel like they’re in the same place. That combined mission is coming to fruition.