Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg touted virtual reality as the future of social media during an unscheduled appearance at Samsung’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona over the weekend, shortly after attendees experienced their own taste of VR courtesy of Samsung’s own Gear VR headsets, a collaboration with Facebook’s Oculus platform.
According to press reports, Zuckerberg told the audience: “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 just there, right there in person.” He went on: “Imagine being able to sit in front of a campfire and hang out with friends anytime you want. Or being able to watch a movie in a private theater with your friends anytime you want. Imagine holding a group meeting or event anywhere in the world that you want. All these things are going to be possible. And that’s why Facebook is investing so much early on in virtual reality. So we can hope to deliver these types of social experiences.”
On that note, over the weekend Facebook announced that it has formed a dedicated virtual reality team to create apps centered on social VR, explaining in a blog post: “This team will explore how people can connect and share using today's VR technology, as well as long-term possibilities as VR evolves into an increasingly important computing platform. They will work closely with Oculus and other teams at Facebook to build the foundation for tomorrow’s social VR experiences on all platforms.” Many popular apps like Minecraft are also lining up VR versions.
Facebook also revealed it will introduce 360-degree streaming video for Samsung’s Gear VR headset in the next few weeks, which will be given away free to customers who preorder Samsung’s new Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 edge smartphones and costs $99 by itself. Meanwhile the first Oculus Rift VR headsets are due to ship in March, with a price tag of $599 (users must also own a gaming console).
The Facebook blog post noted that VR is already gaining traction: “People have already watched more than a million hours of video in Gear VR. Already, millions of people watch 360 videos on Facebook every day. More than 20,000 have been uploaded, with hundreds more added daily.”