Samsung Gear VR is becoming more powerful. The South Korean electronics company announced that its virtual reality headset will be getting new features in a software update thanks to Facebook. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared at Samsung's press conference ahead of Mobile World Congress to showcase the "dynamic streaming" feature while also underlining the social conglomerate's increasingly growing focus towards the nascent technology category. He had several other announcements to make.
Facebook-owned Oculus, which provides software for the Samsung's Gear VR, is bringing 360-degree, immersive video to Samsung's virtual reality headset, Zuckerberg said, during his surprising appearance at South Korean company's media event. The technology brings significant upgrades to streaming content, Zuckerberg claimed, by only playing the bits of information that are in view of the headset at a certain point as opposed to processing the entire 360 sphere of video.
"The idea is that instead of delivering the whole video in high-resolution, we just focus on the part you're looking at," Zuckerberg said. "This allows us to deliver the video with a much higher resolution and quality - about 4X - while also reducing the overall bandwidth consumed. [...] I'm excited to announce that we will bring all these technologies to Gear VR in the next few years."
Zuckerberg took the opportunity to note that Facebook continues to drive virtual reality technology forward and plays the front runner role. "VR is the next platform, where anyone can create and experience anything they want," he said. "For right now, it's mostly used for gaming. That's quickly evolving."
"That's why Facebook is investing so much in VR, so we can deliver these new social experiences. VR is going to be the next social platform." he said. "And that's why we're working with Samsung."
Oculus, which Facebook acquired for $2 billion (roughly Rs. 13,711 crores) in 2014, has more than 200 games in its store, Zuckerberg said, adding that the popular title Minecraft will be coming to the platform soon. Users have uploaded more than 20,000 videos in VR-compatible 360-degree format since the feature became available on Facebook and its apps last year. Millions of people watch these immersive spherical videos, he added.
On the sidelines of Samsung's event, in which the company announced its new flagship smartphones - the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy S7 Edge - Zuckerberg also announced that his company has built a social VR team that focuses entirely on exploring the future of social interaction leveraging virtual reality technology.
The social VR team is led by two gaming executives Daniel James and Mike Booth and has "hundreds of [...] best engineers," Zuckerberg said. "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," wrote Facebook in a blog post. "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."
Facebook announced earlier this year that the Oculus Rift will be available for sale starting March at a price point of $599.