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Facebook Is Now Selling Virtual Reality-Like Video Ads

Facebook is whetting users' appetites for the Oculus Rift launch early next year.


Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR won’t result in a commercial product for at least a few more months. In the meantime, it’s giving users a little taste of the kind of content they can expect.

Facebook will start publishing more 360-degree video content into your News Feed — and it’s also going to start including 360-degree video ads. You don’t need a virtual reality headset to watch these videos, but they simulate what it’s like to look anywhere in a scene.

Facebook first launched 360-degree video in News Feed back in September — you can see how it works down below — and now it’s bringing that functionality to iOS devices and opening it up to advertisers for the first time.

It’s also creating tools to make it easier for people to share 360-degree content to their profiles. It added a resource hub so people can learn more about how to upload 360-degree videos, and it’s partnering with camera manufacturers like Theta and Giroptic to add “publish to Facebook” features directly into the camera. It also poached three Microsoft researchers last month to handle this very challenge — to get people sharing more VR-like content to Facebook.

All of this, if it goes according to plan, should mean more 360-degree video on Facebook. This should make News Feed more interactive, but more importantly, whet users’ appetites for the real VR content they’ll be able to watch with virtual reality headsets like the Samsung Gear VR, launching later this month, or the Oculus Rift, launching next year.

Publishers like BuzzFeed, GoPro and Felix & Paul (who created numerous videos for NBA megastar LeBron James) are all creating content for News Feed that may help Facebook sell more headsets.

Thursday is also the first time that Facebook has rolled out a 360-degree video ad. Initial ad partners include Nestle, Samsung and Walt Disney. This accomplishes two things. They give Facebook yet another video offering to entice advertisers with big ad budgets looking to experiment. And it also introduces advertisers to the idea of VR advertising — things like what it looks like and how it’s created — in preparation for VR expansion down the line.

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