Facebook and Samsung join forces on nascent VR market


The world’s biggest mobile trade show in Barcelona is about much more than just mobile phones: the future, according to Mark Zuckerberg, is virtual reality. The Facebook boss surprised audiences as he took to the stage at the new Samsung Galaxy launch show.

“You know I started learning how to programme computers when I was 11 years old and I still remember sitting in my middle-school math class, writing out code in my notebook because I didn’t have my computer with me, and drawing sketches of a world where instead of just navigating to 2D websites you can transport yourself entirely to a whole other place and feel like you’re really there in reality, and since then I’ve been interested in this idea of virtual reality and I’ve been waiting for the day to come when we could deliver this experience. Now, today, thanks to this partnership between Samsung and Facebook, this is now possible and that day is here,” he told the audience.

The show in Barcelona took on the appearance of a science fiction movie at times as audience members were given the new Gear virtual reality headsets by Samsung to watch the opening presentation video. According to Zuckerberg, the headset is the natural partner for his plans to bring more virtual reality to Facebook. He said he also wants to use Samsung’s technology to drive 360 degree video content.

“So over the last year we’ve been working to make Facebook the best platform for 360 videos, and video is already some of the most engaging content that you’ll see online. Every day more than 100 million hours of video content are watched on Facebook. But 360 videos are even more immersive, because you aren’t just watching passively, you feel as if you’re actually there, you’re actually surfing in Tahiti or flying with the Blue Angels or exploring the surface of Mars,” enthused Zuckerberg.

Launched alongside its new phones at the World Mobile Congress, Samsung’s Gear 360 camera is a tiny, double-lensed sphere that is supposed to make shooting and sharing 360-degree photos and videos easy and approachable. It will be available in the second quarter of this year. Samsung phones, including the brand new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, will come with apps for sharing and viewing on the Gear VR headset. With new features including total water resistance and improved battery life, Samsung’s new flagship devices come at a cost however, with prices starting at 730 euros.

The Korean manufacturer will be competing with new virtual reality offerings from the other Korean giant, LG, which showcased its new compact 360-degree camera equipped with two wide angle cameras that can capture 2K video. Users will be able to watch 360-degree images and videos on the new LG 360 virtual reality goggle, a lightweight headset that simulates a 130-inch TV screen. Both gadgets connect with the new G5 smartphone, which also debuted in Barcelona.

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