Samsung, which staged one of the most popular demonstrations at CES 2016 with its Gear virtual reality software inside Facebook’s Oculus headsets, did it again at Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona Feb. 21. This time, however, Facebook made more news by announcing some even newer technology for people to experience.
At the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event at MWC, CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered an update on the company’s virtual reality initiative and announced some advances in the social network’s long-term efforts to contribute to the future of commercial virtual reality.
To provide a little background here, Zuckerberg and Facebook surprised a lot of people — especially investors — in March 2014 by announcing the acquisition of Oculus VR for $1.9 billion in cash and stock. It pivoted the company into the tech hardware business for the first time.
Zuckerberg revealed Feb. 21 that Facebook’s dynamic streaming technology for 360 video will soon be coming to Samsung’s Gear VR. This increases video resolution by 4x, he said, while reducing the required network bandwidth, so videos in VR look sharper and play faster.
Earlier this month, industry rumors had Samsung coming out with a new Gear VR headset that was capable of handling 360-degree, surround video. Several companies demonstrated the eyeball-like 360-degree video cameras that feed the high-definition video to the headsets.
The CEO also announced that Facebook has created a Social VR team focused on researching and productizing the future of social interaction in VR. Among their assignments will be to explore how people can connect and share using current VR tech, as well as project long-term possibilities for the genre. The Social VR team will work closely with Oculus and other teams at Facebook to build the foundation for future social VR experiences on all platforms.
In a media advisory, Zuckerberg said that since Gear VR launched in November, the response has been strong; more than 200 games and apps are now available for the platform in the Oculus store, and people have already watched more than 1 million hours of video in Gear VR, he said.
Zuckerberg also said that more than 20,000 360-type videos have been uploaded to Facebook, with hundreds more being added daily.
“I think about my baby daughter (Maxima) and the way I want to remember when she takes her first steps,” Zuckerberg said at the Barcelona VR demo. “When I took my first steps, my parents just took a pen and wrote the date down in a baby book … when my cousin’s son took his first steps, she took a photo with a camera. My sister, when her son took his first steps, she took a video on her phone.
“But I want to capture the whole scene. So, I hope we can take a 360 video. So that way, even if my parents and my family aren’t there to experience it in person, they can feel like they’re right there with us. VR is the next platform, where anyone can create and experience anything they want.”
Going back about 10 years, most of what we shared and experienced was text, Zuckerberg said.
“And then it was photos. And now we’re entering into a world where that’s video. But pretty soon we’re going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you’re right there in person,” Zuckerberg said.
“VR is going to be the most social platform. Now, that’s also why we’ve worked with Samsung, to deliver Gear VR. Gear VR is by far the best mobile VR experience. That’s because it combines the best hardware, from Samsung, with the best software — from Facebook, with Oculus.”