Facebook's adding a new process which will enable users to take 360 photos straight from the Facebook app - no specialized cameras or additional stitching tools required.
As you can see from the video, the process is fairly straight-forward - as explained by Facebook:
- Open the Facebook app and click the '360 Photo' option from the top of your News Feed where you update your status
- Press the blue button and follow the path from start to finish until you've taken a complete panorama
- Select your preferred 'starting view' within the photo and share
360 photos will function in the same way as any other Facebook image, meaning you'll be able to tag friends, post them to your timeline or in albums, and/or add them to your groups. And, maybe most important, you'll also now be able to use them as your cover photo.
Facebook's been trying out various new ways to spruce up cover photos of late, including the addition of video cover images for Pages. At this stage, only personal profiles will be able to use 360 images as their cover image, though as with all things Facebook, that could change at any time.
It definitely adds a new element to consider - part of the problem with 360 content is that, while it looks good, actually capturing a 360 image (which Facebook has supported since June last year) has always required a level of technical know-how and/or specialized equipment. If Facebook can simplify the process, while providing a good-looking, functional application for such content, that'll definitely boost interest. And worth noting, even with the extra requirements, Facebook says that more than 70 million 360 photos have already been uploaded to the network.
Virtual reality is the future of social connectivity, the closest we can feasibly get to facilitating a shared experience. But VR is still some way of being commonplace - before we get to that next level, we're likely to see a range of stepping stones, like these, which enable us to provide greater perspective than basic photo or video, and move towards that higher plain of interactivity.
At its best, 360 content is like VR, though without the interactive capacity. VR, essentially, will combine elements of 360 video and Augmented Reality (AR) to create fully immersive worlds, whereas 360 content provides a window, a glimpse into another person's perspective.
But done well, those glimpses can be amazing, as anyone who's ever used even a basic Google cardboard headset will attest.
Making this an easier option is definitely a positive step, and will undoubtedly see more people posting 360 content to The Social Network, moving us closer to the next stage of development.
Facebook's 360 photo capability is rolling out across both iOS and Android from today