Facebook has seen the future, and it comes in 360 degrees.
The Menlo Park, Calif.-based social-networking giant said it now supports posts that have 360-degree videos, letting users scroll on their phones or computers to see in all directions around an object or place.
One of the first such videos published Wednesday wasThe video shows the view from the seat of a vehicle moving across the desert. Users on a phone can drag their finger left and right to look around as they move along. On a computer, they merely click and drag on the video with their cursor.
The move is a key step for Facebook as it prepares for what it thinks will be radical changes coming to the tech industry that could alter the way we create and view content.
At the heart of this will be Oculus VR, a startup Facebook bought for $2 billion last year. The virtual reality goggles it creates can transport any wearer to a computer-generated world of their choosing, where they can look around and explore. Facebook is.
If Facebook is right, and virtual reality along with 360-degree video is the future, it could have far-reaching implications for how we use Facebook. The service isn't just a go-to place for the latest gossip about friends' weddings, babies and pets. It's also become one of the most popular photo and video services in the world, competing against other titans of the tech industry such as Google and Apple, whose smartphones and tablets are often used to create the photos and videos we share.
With 360-degree video, Facebook says it will give users a way of sharing experiences with friends online that weren't possible before.
"In the future, imagine watching 360 videos of a friend's vacation to a small village in France or a festival in Brazil -- you'll be able to look around and experience it as if you were there," Maher Saba, a director of engineering on Facebook's video project, wrote in a news release.
As part of the announcement, Facebook partnered with several celebrities and large brands to publish videos that help showcase this new capability. One video, sponsored by Mountain Dew, gave viewers a chance to ride on Bristol Motor Speedway in a car driven by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Another, by Discovery, gave them a chance to experience diving with sharks. Facebook said more will be published in the future.
Visitors to Facebook can start seeing 360-degree videos on Facebook "soon" for those visiting the site from their computers, or from smartphones powered by Google's Android software. People who own Apple's iPhone will have to wait longer, Facebook said, but it will be available for that device "in the coming months."