Facebook Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls virtual reality the next “computing platform.” And if The Wall Street Journal is to be believed, the social networking giant is fast-forwarding the development of a 360-degree video app that would work both on Android as well as Apple Inc. devices. The “spherical” video app will make use of multiple cameras that would allow users to change their viewing perspective by rotating their phones.
The buzz surrounding virtual reality has been there for the last few years. But Facebook Inc’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR in 2014 renewed focus and investment in to the sector. As late as March this year, Zuckerberg said Facebook Inc would incorporate spherical video in its news feed, offering users the ability to “move around inside the video and view it from different angles.”
Facebook Beyond Oculus
Wall Street expects Oculus to start shipping a consumer version of its Rift head-set by the first quarter of next year. Zuckerberg believes the new head-set will deliver a range of new “immersive” experiences. Doctor appointments could become more and more virtual, while people could enjoy live concerts or courtside basketball seats from the comforts of their home.
The market for Oculus head-sets may still be nascent. Analysts at Deutsche Bank forecast Oculus to sell 1.5 million devices next year, compared to an expected 2 billion mobile phone shipments. But Zuckerberg is undeterred, and seems to realize the need to improve his range of virtual reality products to reach a wider audience.
Herein comes the mobile video app. The experience would obviously be less immersive than the Oculus headset. But the app will help extend the technology to a much bigger market.
Leading Names Join In
Last year, Google Inc launched a virtual-reality viewer named “Cardboard,” and also pumped in $542 million in to Magic Leap Inc., a Florida start-up, currently working on a head-mounted display.
In May this year, Google unveiled tools that help create 360-degree, three-dimensional pictures and video. It became an instant hit after YouTube started supporting those videos, with more than 400,000 people subscribing to its #360Video channel.
Samsung Electronics Co. also stepped in to the scene after teaming up with Oculus for the Gear VR headset, scheduled for launch later this year. Sony Corp. also develops its own range of headsets under the brand-name Project Morpheus.
For the past almost 3 decades, talk of virtual reality has been constant, but some hurdles always came in the way of mainstream adoption. But that no longer seems to be the case as almost every tech firm worth its name is rolling out some new VR-device. But Facebook Inc may steal the lead if it manages to make it accessible for more people.