Facebook is going VR, with over 1m 360 degree videos consumed everyday

VIrtual reality (VR) is integral to the Facebook experience of the future, with the company’s early tests around 360 degree videos already generating more than one million views each day.

VR can become the most social platform, according to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who believes its emergence as a medium will see people share “scenes” so it feels like they’re in another place. Speaking at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the technology boss predicted that VR would be the successor to video, much in the same way it is replacing images, which eventually overtook text as the de facto way people communicate with one other across his platforms.

Moving forward, Zuckerberg said VR experiences on smaller devices will be fuelled by the spread of 5G, allowing people to effectively livestream their world with “in-retina quality display”. Consequently, network operators need to fully-adapt their business models to the world of data, he warned.

“Video in 2016 is probably as big a shift in the way that people are going to share and consume what’s going in the world around them as mobile was for how people shared experiences with one another in 2012,” claimed Zuckerberg, who’s Facebook users watch 100 million hours of video per day.

“A big part of what’s enabling video to become so huge now is because of the improvements over time of the mobile networks to be able to stream faster and better quality videos. That’s going to need to be a lot better for video if we are to be able to share a whole scene,” added Zuckerberg.

"But video isn’t the end of the line," he continued before predicting that “we’ll get to a moment where we have the ability to share whole scenes and not just a video….that’s going to be profound and continues the trend of people sharing in more immersive ways.”

There’s already a team dedicated solely to researching and developing VR for social network. However, those projects are more future-facing and Facebook’s earliest insights into the technology are coming from how people are using 360 videos on its network. The videos began rolling out into news feeds last September and it’s now bringing them to the Samsung Gear VR as it looks to expand the reach of videos that are already watched more than a million times each day on the platform.

"Facebook has always had a love-hate relationship with carriers and this tension will accelerate now that the time has come to connect the next billion of Internet users in emerging countries," said Forrester analyst Thomas Husson.

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are services consumers expect to access and this was a way for carriers to upsell data services. Alternatively, Facebook's business models relies on advertising and many telcos see no reason why they would have invested so much in the infrastructure to let FB benefit from it without paying anything. Not to mention the risk of damaging their core business with the likes of WhatsApp killing their SMS cash cow."

Seb Joseph

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