Facebook has collaborated with its Oculus division to bring a taste of virtual reality to its News Feed. The move could introduce 360-degree immersive format to Facebook audiences. The videos, which are debuting on Android and the web, but not on Apple’s iOS for now, allow you to change the field of view by tapping the screen or moving your phone in space.
To start with, you will be able to see videos from Star Wars, GoPro, VICE, The Discovery Channel, and Saturday Night Live (SNL), among others. Anyone can publish one of the videos starting today.
On the web, they work just fine — you click around to shift your perspective; it feels like using Google Maps’ Street View feature inside a video. But on mobile, the videos feel much more alive: using the phone’s gyroscope, Facebook tracks your relative position inside the video. This is a lot of fun with the Star Wars demo, which builds on footage from the recent trailer showing a landspeeder zooming across the desert. Spin in a circle, while watching the demo, and the desert spins right around with you.
Facebook is not the first big company to offer a home for 360-degree video. YouTube rolled out its version in March, and it works much the same as Facebook’s.
Facebook’s News Feed is used by upwards of 1 billion people every month, representing 360-video’s best chance so far to reach a large audience and break through to the mainstream.