Facebook has been making serious inroads in the 360-degree content game for months, taking on YouTube with rich, immersive photos and videos that put viewers right in the center of the action. To date, users have posted more than 25 million photos and a million Facebook 360 videos to their feeds, showcasing a wide array of people, places, and events. But there has never really been a great way to view them until now.
Facebook has finally released an app for viewing its 360-degree movies and photos. Powered by Oculus, the app works exclusively with the Samsung Gear VR through the Oculus site, and lets you explore and view Facebook 360 content in all its glory. No longer will you need to hold and tilt your phone to see what’s happening. You need only launch the Facebook 360 app, pop your Galaxy phone into your Gear VR headset, and you’ll be transported to faraway lands and breathtaking landscapes.
At launch, the app will feature four sections: Explore, where you can discover new videos; Following, which lets you see any content posted by your Facebook friends and pages you follow; Saved, for the 360 videos you’ve bookmarked in your News Feed; and Timeline, which lets you relive your own 360 uploads.
The new app is a boon for Samsung as it battles Google for VR supremacy. Just last week at Mobile World Congress, Oculus announced that the Gear VR will now include a Daydream-like Gear VR Controller that “has been tuned to make it easy to navigate to your favorite videos and perform a number of actions within a game, while the trigger lets you select, grab, take aim, and fire.”
Additionally, the company promised that more than 70 controller-compatible titles are on the way for the Gear VR. While Facebook didn’t specifically say whether the controller can be used with its 360 app, presumably it will be one of the first to showcase the new feature. Currently, the Gear VR is only compatible with the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones.
A dose of virtual reality: Facebook has long touted the Gear 360 and even supplied a detailed GitHub manual for building your very own surround 360-degree camera for video creation, but the new Gear VR app is the company’s first foray into a true consumer solution for viewing 360 videos. While it’s no surprise that Facebook is limiting its app to the Gear VR at launch (since it owns Oculus), Facebook did say that it plans to bring the 360 app to more platforms over time.