Facebook is trying to make virtual reality accessible without using a geeky headset.
The social network is looking to add to its family of mobile apps with a new one focused on 360-degree videos that works by letting users navigate it by tilting their phones, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The top secret project is still in the “early stages” and a release date hasn’t been set. It sounds similar to Facebook’s “immersive experience” video ad units that brands including Gatorade and Michael Kors have been experimenting with that engulfs users in a 360-degree view.
Despite being a pared down version of a true VR experience, which requires people to strap on clunky goggles, a standalone app featuring the fledgling technology could introduce it to a massive audience and push it into the mainstream.
Chad Martin, the director of social and emerging media at marketing agency VML, told Digiday that the VR app could propel Facebook as an immediate “leader in the field.” He added that the format can provide a “cool way for consumers to experience a moment, location, situation or even a product.”
The news shows that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is very interested expanding into the format.
Last year, the company acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion with its first consumer headset expected to roll out in early 2016. Zuckerberg expressed further support in the format during July’s earnings call saying that “immersive 3D content is the obvious next thing after video.”
It’s also significant that, if it does materialize, the new product would be another mobile app only adding to its growing list that includes a revamped Messenger, celebrity-focused Mentions, news app Paper, Instagram and WhatsApp, just to name a few. A survey recently released from AppAnnie shows that Facebook has four apps in the top 10 list of global iOS downloads showing how dominant it is in the mobile app area.
Facebook has not yet returned Digiday’s request for comment about the VR app.