Facebook makes Gear VR videos clearer and faster to load

'Dynamic streaming' is coming in the next few weeks.

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Nick Summers
February 21st, 2016
Press Association
Press Association

When it comes to smartphone-powered virtual reality, few devices come close to Samsung's Gear VR. The headset has been sold in a few different flavors and now, it's getting some updated software courtesy of the team at Facebook. Over the next few weeks, the social network will be updating its 360-degree videos with "dynamic streaming" inside the Oculus Video player. If all goes to plan, the change should result in VR videos that are higher quality and more data efficient on the lightweight device.

"Dynamic streaming" requires Facebook to process and store all of its videos in multiple resolutions. It only shows the best version for the spot you're actually looking at -- the rest is a lower resolution file that's automatically swapped out as you look left and right. "By doing this, we've quadrupled the resolution quality of 360 streaming video in VR, while reducing the amount of required bandwidth by four times," a Facebook spokesperson said. "So videos look clearer and play faster." The Gear VR is perfectly portable, so this adaptive streaming should also help people to reduce their data consumption (and avoid hitting their monthly cap).

To coincide with this announcement, Facebook -- which bought Oculus VR for $2 billion in 2014 -- has a few fresh figures. It says more than 200 games are now available in the Oculus store, and Gear VR owners have consumed more than a million hours of VR video to date. Promising figures, especially as it drives pre-orders for the consumer Rift.

Rounding out today's news drop is the creation of a "Social VR team" at Facebook. That might sound a little unnecessary -- Facebook is an inherently social company -- but the idea is to explore the "future of social interaction in VR." The team is led by Mike Booth, best known as the designer of Left 4 Dead, and Daniel James, which worked on a multiplayer online game called Puzzle Pirates. The nature of their work is a little unclear, but Facebook says it's about helping people "connect and share," just like it's done already with products like Instagram and Messenger.

Hopefully that doesn't mean a VR version of the Facebook News Feed.

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