The revolution will be televised, in 360 spherical video.
Right now, the spherical videos only work on the web, and on newer Android devices. (Quartz tried to open the video on a Samsung Galaxy S6 and a Moto X, but received an error message in both instances. It did load on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2.)
Facebook says support should be coming to iPhones and iPads “in the coming months.”
On the web, the videos work much like YouTube’s spherical videos—using a mouse, you can click and drag around a scene—making it only slightly more immersive than a standard video. Where these videos come into their own is on mobile: You can see different aspects of the video as you move your phone around, which when filmed properly, can produce some pretty stunning effects.
Facebook tried to show this off with some impressive partners, including Star Wars:
And LeBron James:
But Facebook’s real differentiator will likely be Oculus Rift, the company’s forthcoming virtual reality headset. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he believes virtual reality will be the next major computing platform. The company wasn’t immediately available for comment on how Oculus will play into immersive videos on the site, but Facebook may have just taken its first step to bringing the social network to Oculus.
Immersive videos could be the gateway drug that the Facebook’s 1.5 billion-strong audience needs to get into virtual reality. Right now, spherical videos are not that common, as the camera rigs—like GoPro’s—required to shoot them are expensive and bulky, but they produce some amazing results.
GoPro’s cameras are getting smaller, and it’s likely that there will soon be more spherical content gracing the web. Between deals with Google and Facebook, and the program GoPro is running to put 4K spherical cameras in the hands of videographers, it seems that GoPro is set to become the standard for 360 video capture. If it can figure out how to make 360 capture as affordable as its regular cameras, or perhaps how to incorporate this technology into its forthcoming drones, it’ll have another massive success on its hands.
The social videos of tomorrow could soon feel as immersive as being there—imagine a video popping up on your newsfeed from a friend’s wedding you weren’t able to attend. You’ll be able to open it up on your tablet, or on Oculus, and get to see what it looked like in the middle of the dancefloor during the Funky Chicken Dance. FOMO will become a thing of the past.