Facebook Debuts 360 Photos

The 360-degree photos promised by Facebook’s Oculus VR virtual reality subsidiary last month have officially arrived.

The 360-degree photos promised by Facebook’s Oculus VR virtual reality subsidiary last month have officially arrived.

Product manager Andy Huang announced in a Newsroom post Thursday that 360 photos are currently available for viewing via Facebook on the web and the latest versions of its flagship iOS and Android applications, adding that the tools for users to share their own 360 photos will be made available “over the next few days.”

Once those tools are rolled out, Huang said users will be able to share panoramic photos taken via iOS devices or Samsung Galaxy phones, or 360-degree photos shot with 360 photo apps or cameras, the same way they would share any other photos and videos, and the 360-degree scrolling capability will be functional in News Feed for any photos that appear with a compass icon.

Users can move their phones or drag those photos with their fingers to experience them in 360, and tapping them will convert them to full-screen.

Samsung Gear VR users can click the “View in VR” button in the top-left-hand corner of photos and insert their phones into their headsets.

Huang also directed users looking for further information to the Facebook 360 site, the Facebook 360 Community group and the Help Center.

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He wrote in the Newsroom post:

360 photos are easy to identify in News Feed: Just look for the compass icon on the right-hand side of the photo. Explore a 360 photo on mobile by tapping and dragging the photo or by moving your phone, and on the web by clicking and dragging. Now your friends can experience the moments you share in 360 as if they were actually there with you, from hiking through a national park, to wandering through a museum, to celebrating a wedding.

Along with 360 photos from your friends and family, you can discover stunning new 360 photos on Facebook from public figures, publishers and other organizations. 360 photos give you the ability to take the stage in front of 100,000 fans with Paul McCartney, get behind-the-scenes access to the Supreme Court via The New York Times, visit the International Space Station with NASA and more. This medium enables new opportunities for creativity, and we’re excited to see what kinds of 360 photos get shared on Facebook.

Beyond News Feed, you’ll also be able to explore Facebook 360 photos in virtual reality with the Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus. While using a supported Samsung device, simply click “View in VR” in the top-left corner of the video, place the phone in the Gear VR and experience the photo in an immersive VR environment.

Facebook 360 partnerships lead Paul Beddoe-Stephens and strategic partnerships executive Brad Ferry wrote in a Facebook Media blog post that 360-degree cameras that can be used to create Facebook 360 photos include the Samsung Gear 360, Ricoh Theta S, 360Fly, Giroptic 360 Cam and ALLie Camera, and they provided links to some of the first 360 photos published on the social network:

  • Paul McCartney taking fans on stage at a concert in Córdoba, Argentina.
  • The New York Times bringing people behind the scenes at the Supreme Court.
  • NASA sharing a look at what it’s like aboard the International Space Station.
  • National Geographic transporting viewers to an ancient necropolis in Kazakhstan.
  • Fashion photographer Mario Testino offering a 360 view—both in front of the camera and behind the scenes—of a photo shoot with supermodels Lily Aldridge and Karlie Kloss.
  • Time taking a camera high atop One World Trade Center, 1,776 feet above lower Manhattan.
  • Felicia Day’s panorama from the red carpet at the premiere of Warcraft.

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And Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg caught the 360 bug, as well, sharing the following Facebook post (embedded below):

Today we’re starting to roll out 360 photos worldwide across Facebook.

These are similar to 360 videos–you can tilt your phone and feel like you’re actually there. You can also check them out in virtual reality for a fully immersive experience.

The big difference with 360 photos is you can take them with your phone. Just take a panorama or use a 360 camera app, then post it to Facebook and we’ll take care of the rest.

This is a 360 photo of Manhattan taken from the top of One World Trade Center by Michael Franz and Jonathan D. Woods for Time. It’s a great shot of a great city.

Readers: Are you excited about the launch of 360 photos on Facebook?

Facebook360PhotoDemo from SocialTimes on Vimeo.

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.