- Facebook announced new steps toward the future of VR and endorsed Samsung Gear VR as "the best mobile VR experience.".
- Mark Zuckerberg made a surprise appearance at a Samsung press event and confirmed Facebook's commitment to VR and the Samsung partnership.
- Facebook wants to create VR technologies to fuel the next generation of Facebook's social products.
Samsung Electronics (OTC:SSNLF) announced the newest additions to the Galaxy family of smartphones, Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The new Galaxy smartphones feature a refined design, a more advanced camera, streamlined software functionality, and new connectivity options.
“We believe in a world that is brighter, sharper, more convenient, and more fun," said DJ Koh, President of Mobile Communications Business, Samsung Electronics. "We strive to deliver on that vision with the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge by marrying elegant design with functionality and providing a seamless mobile experience. We empower consumers with technology to help them get more out of life and will continue to push the frontier of what’s possible."
The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge will be available starting mid-March 2016, and can be pre-ordered now. It's worth noting that those who pre-order a new Galaxy S7 smartphone will receive a free Samsung Gear VR Virtual Reality (VR) headset, powered by Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) Oculus technology.
"Virtual reality is already something people can touch and feel with the Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus, which is in stores now," notes a Facebook communication titled "New Steps Toward the Future of Virtual Reality." Facebook is betting on the Samsung headset, which at $99 is much more affordable than Facebook's own Oculus Rift headset. "Gear VR is the best mobile VR experience in the world because it combines the leading VR software, built by Facebook’s Oculus team, with world-class mobile hardware, built by Samsung."
Facebook announced that its spherical 360-degree video technology is now available for the Samsung Gear VR headset. Spherical video does for video what VR photography does for still pictures - it allows viewers to look around in a video, just like in real life - and can be seen as a more interactive form of video, halfway between traditional video and VR. Spherical videos can be produced by combining multiple video cameras or using special spherical video cameras able to capture 360-degree video.
"We’ve also been developing new technology that will make video in virtual reality work even better," notes the Facebook post. "360 video on Facebook is the first step - it allows you to look around and feel like you’re present while watching a video. Today, we’re taking an important step toward improving 360 video in VR: Our powerful dynamic streaming technology for 360 video is coming to Gear VR."
In November Amigobulls reported the launch of a first alpha version of a Facebook virtual world for Oculus Rift and Gear VR users, dubbed Oculus Social, which has been hailed as a major milestone "as important as when the first smartphone came out - a first product in its category that will completely change how humans interact with one another."
Now, Facebook has created an internal Social VR team focused entirely on exploring the future of social interaction in VR. The Social VR 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.
Facebook's creator Mark Zuckerberg is persuaded that VR will be the next major computing platform. Facebook "is committed to [virtual reality] for the long-term," he said. "The next logical step is fully immersive VR."
Zuckerberg himself spoke at the Samsung press event at the Mobile World Congress. "Pretty soon, we're going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if we're there in person," said Zuckerberg, as reported by CNET. The surprise appearance of Zuckerberg, who "stole the Samsung show" and commanded considerable attention from the press, shows Facebook's commitment to VR and the Samsung partnership.
It appears that Facebook's acquisition of Oculus VR, developer of the Oculus Rift VR headset, in 2014 for $2 billion, was mainly aimed at developing enabling VR technologies and stimulating a VR ecosystem that, in turn, will fuel the next generation of Facebook's social products. If so, it seems likely that Facebook will rely on established hardware makers like Samsung to build affordable consumer gear, and focus on implementing VR as a key element of its core social networking business. If VR is the next wave of social interaction, Facebook's dominant position in the social web will be strengthened, and Facebook's stock will soar.