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Facebook boost for Virtual Reality

Facebook has unveiled new advances in its long-term efforts to build the future of Virtual Reality. It made the announcement to coincide with the appearance of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at Samsung’s Unpacked press conference in Barcelona on the eve of Mobile World Congress.

“VR is the next platform, where anyone can create and experience anything they want,” Zuckerberg said. “For right now, it’s mostly used for gaming. That’s quickly evolving.”

He said that one of the reasons why Facebook was investing so much in VR was so that it could deliver new social experiences such as sitting around a virtual campfire with friends any time they want, to holding spontaneous meetings in VR. “VR is the next platform, where anyone can create and experience anything they want,” Zuckerberg said. “

According to Facebook, since the launch of the Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus in November 2015, the response has been incredibly strong: More than 200 games and apps are now available for the platform in the Oculus store, and people have already watched more than a million hours of video in Gear VR.

“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,” Facebook says. “It’s a more efficient way of delivering 360 videos, showing only the pixels you’re actually looking at in the highest quality, instead of delivering the entire 360 video in high resolution. To make this work, we create dozens of variants for every 360 video that gets uploaded to Facebook, each tailored to a specific viewing angle, and then as you watch the video, we rapidly adjust which variant we display based on where you’re looking. By doing this, we’ve quadrupled the resolution quality of 360 streaming video in VR by reducing the amount of required network bandwidth by 4x — so videos look clearer and play faster. We’re excited to bring this to Gear VR in the next few weeks.”

“As we continue to make big breakthroughs in the technology behind VR, we’re also investing in efforts to explore immersive new VR experiences that will help people connect and share. We’ve already helped people connect in a wide variety of ways on mobile devices — ranging from Facebook and Instagram to Messenger and WhatsApp — and now we want to apply that same approach to the new medium of VR. In the future, VR will enable even more types of connection — like the ability for friends who live in different parts of the world to spend time together and feel like they’re really there with each other.”

“We’ve created a Social VR team at Facebook focused entirely on exploring the future of social interaction in VR. This 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. They’ll will work closely with Oculus and other teams at Facebook to build the foundation for tomorrow’s social VR experiences on all platforms.”

“Our work in VR is still early, and there are a lot of hardware and software challenges that we still need to solve. But we’re encouraged by our progress to date, and we’re excited to continue building VR technology that gives people new ways to connect and share,” concludes Facebook.

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