Facebook planning ‘virtual reality app for smartphones’

Facebook is reportedly working on an app that would allow users to view 360-degree videos on their smartphones

Facebook is reportedly working on a “virtual reality” video app that would allow users to view 360-degree videos on their smartphones.

Users will be able to “move around inside the video and view it from different angles” by turning and tilting their phones, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal that cites people familiar with the matter.

The app, which is reportedly still in the early stages of development, would work on both iOS and Android devices, the Journal said. However, it is currently unclear when or if the app will launch.

Facebook chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has repeatedly described virtual reality as the next big “computing platform” after mobile devices, and believes that it will one day become a part of daily life for billions of people.

Last year, the company paid $2 billion (£1.2bn) for Oculus VR, the company behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

“Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face – just by putting on goggles in your home,” said Mr Zuckerberg at the time.

“Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones.”

Oculus Rift, which started life as a Kickstarter project in 2012, promising to “take 3D gaming to the next level”, is expected to start shipping to consumers in the first quarter of 2016.

Palmer Luckey, co-founder of Oculus VR Inc. and creator of the Oculus Rift, demonstrates the new Oculus Rift headset during the "Step Into The Rift" event in San Francisco, California, U.SOculus founder Palmer Luckey uses the Rift headset  Photo: Bloomberg

The consumer model will have a new “industrial design” and feature an “improved tracking system” that supports both seated and standing gaming, according to Oculus VR.

A 360-degree video app would offer a less immersive experience than a headset. However, it would help extend Facebook’s presence in virtual reality beyond Oculus, and introduce the technology to a much larger audience.

Google already offers a makeshift device called Google Cardboard, that can be used to transform a smartphone into a virtual reality headset.

The device itself is little more than a way of holding a phone up to the eyes and separating the view into two halves. Developers can then make apps to take advantage of this stereo image and the built-in motion sensors to create 3D effects.

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  1. […] Facebook planning ‘virtual reality app for smartphones’ […]

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