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Facebook announces support for 360-degree video and shows off Teleportation Station at F8 Conference

Facebook announces support for 360-degree video and shows off Teleportation Station at F8 Conference

It’s Day 1 at Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, and there has been an announcement about immersive video support that is very exciting for the VR community, along with an exhibit called Teleportation Station that is intriguing and a bit mysterious.

The announcement, made during Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote to attendees, is that 360-degree video is coming to Facebook Video, with support for both the web and VR systems that allow the viewer to look around to see different angles of the immersive video. While the web-based version was the one that was demonstrated in the Keynote by dragging around a cursor, clearly this feature is not just incidentally related to virtual reality.

Facebook knows that great content is going to be the engine of growth for VR, and only a week after Youtube added 360-degree support to their video player, Facebook is showing that they are serious about virtual reality having casual and social uses beyond simply playing games.  Mark Zuckerberg went so far as to indicate during the morning keynote that he predicts VR and AR content will be among the most shared type of content within five years.

The Teleportation Station is a bit more mysterious but may represent the other side of Facebook’s immersive video strategy: livestreaming. Next to a neon green sign featuring a teleportation booth, demos are being given of an immersive 360-degree livestream from a GoPro-based camera rig placed next to a cafe at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters. The folks at Facebook remain tight-lipped about describing how the Teleportation Station may fit into their product roadmap, but with all the hype around services like Meerkat and Periscope, one could imagine how Facebook may be planning to take on livestreaming video with a uniquely immersive twist.

I spoke with Nicolas Burtey, CEO of VideoStitch, the company helping to power Facebook’s Teleportation Station with their live video stitching technology. Nicolas excitedly described being able to stand next to the coach at the Super Bowl, and other mainstream scenarios for live-streamed immersive video.

“Every year there is more than 1 billion smartphones sold and pretty soon vendors will give away HMDs for free when you purchase a new phone. I predict in two years, there will be 100 million people with mobile VR devices.”

VideoStich recently introduced support for 4k resolution immersive video, and now are working on support for 3D video that will have a greater sense of depth. They are also building Director, software for VR filmmakers to see and control live-streamed video while they are filming.

“When you are filming with VR, it is now like the 19th century with film, where you shoot on Monday, on Tuesday you send the film to the laboratory, and on Wednesday you can finally see what you shot on Monday. This is what it is like today for filmmaking with VR and Director will be a big improvement.”

Oculus is also showing off the Gear VR systems with Herobound, Anshar Wars and Oculus Cinema demos, and showing the Crescent Bay with the same action-packed demos featuring aliens and dinosaurs that they have previously shown at SXSW and GDC.

Day 2 will kick off with a Keynote on “Why Virtual Reality Will Matter to You” from Oculus Chief Scientist Michael Abrash, so perhaps we have not heard all the VR related announcements yet that will come out of F8 2015.

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