Facebook and Samsung Plan to Make Virtual Reality Social: MWC

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Virtual reality video is a immersive way to experience games and remote places, but can it also be social? Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg believes so. Zuckerberg made a surprise appearance at Samsung's Mobile World Congress press event in Barcelona, Spain, yesterday, giving his vision for the future of VR.

“Pretty soon we’re going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you’re just there, right there in person,” Zuckerberg said. VR is “the most social platform" he added, saying that viewers have now watched more than 1 million hours of VR video with the Samsung Gear VR.

Facebook has been bullish on VR since it paid $1.9 billion to acquire Oculus in March 2014. In a blog post the day before the Samsung event, Facebook announced that it will soon bring its 360 video streaming technology to the Samsung Gear VR headset. Rather than streaming an entire 360-degree video in high-resolution, 360 video delivers only the section that the viewer can see in high-res. By doing so, Facebook is able to quadruple VR resolution over much smaller bandwidth. The technology will appear in the Gear VR in a few weeks.

The post also announced that Facebook has created a Social VR team to explore the future of social interactions in virtual reality. It will work with the Oculus team to create tomorrow's social VR platform.

At MWC, Samsung unveiled the Gear 360, a baseball-shaped video camera that captures 360-degree images. It includes two 15-megapixel CMOS sensors, and can capture 3,840x1,920 VR video at 30 fps. It should go on sale sometime in Q2.

Zuckerberg's appearance proved a major disruption to the Samsung press event, where the company unveiled the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones. Tech journalists rushed to get pictures of the Facebook CEO, and seemed more interested in photographing him that hearing what he had to say. Details for the Samsung phones had been leaked ahead of time, but Zuckerberg's appearance was a true surprise.

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