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Facebook doubles down on virtual reality with ‘social VR’ team


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The Mobile World Congress show is underway in Barcelona, and virtual reality is already one of the hot topics.

That’s thanks in part to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg popping up in actual reality at Samsung’s pre-show press conference, to talk up the social network’s ambitions in VR.

It owns Oculus VR, of course, which besides making the soon-to-launch Oculus Rift VR headset, also provides technology for Samsung’s Gear VR headset.

In an accompanying blog post, Facebook provided an interesting stat: “More than 200 games and apps are now available for the platform in the Oculus store, and people have already watched more than a million hours of video in Gear VR,” claimed the social network.

It added that on its own service: “Millions of people watch 360 videos on Facebook every day. More than 20,000 have been uploaded, with hundreds more added daily.”

Facebook has also created a new ‘Social VR’ team that will “explore how people can connect and share using today’s VR technology, as well as long-term possibilities as VR evolves into an increasingly important computing platform”.

It’s reasonable to wonder how music – one of the most social experiences there is in the entertainment world – might fit in to that.

While most previous reports on Facebook’s likely plans for music – ours included – have focused on whether it will launch or buy its own streaming service, perhaps Facebook will focus instead on a VR experience for listening (and watching) music together.

Other pre-MWC news contributing to the VR buzz: HTC announced that its Vive headset will open for pre-orders on 29 February, with a retail price of $799. It will connect to a PC to run games and applications, like the Oculus Rift.

Meanwhile, LG is launching its own 360 VR headset, which will compete directly with Samsung’s Gear VR – albeit by only working with LG’s new G5 smartphone.

Stuart Dredge

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