Facebook is adding 360-degree photos to its service starting today, joining 360-degree videos. You can take a 360-degree photo with an app and upload it to Facebook just like a normal photo.
360 photos in your newsfeed can be navigated by sliding your finger on the touch screen, or by moving your arm. If you have a Gear VR, you also have the option to view the photo in virtual reality as well. Look for images on Facebook with a compass icon on them — those are 360 photos.
The user-generated photos on Facebook will join professionally-produced content including Paul McCartney on stage, the Supreme Court and the International Space Station.
In comparison, Valve is releasing a photogrammetry-based set of tools this week that require specialized software and a lot more work to produce something that can be experienced in VR. However, the approach produces photo-based worlds that can be explored in a room-scale space. You can walk around a photogrammetry-based world. 360 photos, however, are best experienced standing or sitting in place when in VR. The difference is indicative of the differences between the new VR platforms from Valve and Facebook. In case you’re unfamiliar, Valve powers the HTC Vive, which is competing directly with Facebook’s Oculus Rift.
The addition of this feature is a big step for Facebook as it could introduce quite a lot of people to some of the most basic kinds of content that you can have in VR.