Facebook is finally letting users upload and view 360-degree photos right in the News Feed. After capturing a panorama or 360-degree photo with their native smartphone camera or a third-party app, users can now post said photo directly to the social network, where it will be converted into an image that can be viewed on desktop or any smartphone. The move comes as a part of the company's ongoing push to support the format, as it positions itself as the go-to destination for immersive content.
Facebook wants to be the go-to destination for immersive content
Facebook announced that 360-degree photos would arrive in the News Feed last month. Starting today, users will be able to identify the photos by the compass icon floating on the upper righthand corner of the image. All they need to do is click and drag on the image to explore the complete environment, or simply move their smartphone around. Along with the 360-degree video feature that was announced last September, this announcement also comes out of Oculus VR's desire for more content that can be viewed on the Oculus Rift and Gear VR headset (provided you have a recent Galaxy smartphone).
It'll take some time before users embrace 360-degree photos in critical numbers, but Facebook clearly sees them as a new creative medium that encourages exploration. "Along with 360 photos from your friends and family, you can discover stunning new 360 photos on Facebook from public figures, publishers, and other organizations," writes Facebook product manager Andy Huang in the official release. "360 photos give you the ability to take the stage in front of 100,000 fans with Paul McCartney, get behind-the-scenes access to the Supreme Court via The New York Times, visit the International Space Station with NASA, and more."
"360 photos give the ability to take the stage in front of 100,000 fans with Paul McCartney"
So outsized is Facebook's ambition for 360-degree content that the company announced its own 17-camera array called Facebook Surround at F8 earlier this year. The reference design was released as an open-source project on GitHub, and the social giant said at the time that it solves many of the problems currently facing 360-degree video, like image quality issues that come from individual shutters closing while footage is being recorded. Facebook hopes the design will encourage manufacturers to design their own rigs going forward.
It's still early days for VR and 360-degree content, but Facebook is well positioned to keep pushing the new technology into the mainstream. Now it's just a matter of average users getting onboard and trying it all out.