Zuckerberg steals Samsung show, unveils big vision for virtual reality

Facebook and Samsung plan to drive virtual reality beyond games and entertainment

Nothing can prepare you for the day you come face-to-face with an icon.

It hasn’t really sunk in yet, and I’m not sure if as a tech journalist I’m even supposed to feel this way. But it happened, last night at the tail end of Samsung’s hour-long Unpacked event, I came almost face-to-face with Mark Zuckerberg, and I was awestruck.

Mark Zuckerberg says Virtual Reality is THE next platform

Mark Zuckerberg says Virtual Reality is THE next platform

Staring through my camera’s viewfinder I stood huddled along with almost a hundred other journalists at the foot of the stage where just moments earlier, Samsung unveiled two impressive smartphones and an innovative 360 camera.

But our thoughts weren’t about these devices anymore, they were about the Facebook founder that stood right in front of us. A man whose unveiling was more dramatic than that of the phones we’d travelled thousands of miles to see.

Just minutes before, with virtual reality goggles on and a 360 degree video presentation playing, an entire audience was clueless that one of the world’s most recognizable faces was nonchalantly walking past, with a sheepish grin on his face that told of world domination. When the video was over we took off our headsets, and there stood Mark Zuckerberg, in the middle of the stage with a thousand watt smile on his face.

If what he was about to say comes true, there is plenty for him to be happy about.

Just two years ago his company spent $2B to acquire virtual reality company Oculus, and today he talked about how together, Facebook and Samsung were going to “push the state of (VR) technology forward.”

Driving virtual reality and beyond

What happens when two of the world’s largest tech companies form an alliance? Great things. Late last year Samsung, with Facebook’s help, launched the Gear VR, a sub $100 dollar virtual reality headset – the world’s most affordable consumer VR product.

This year, Zuckerberg estimates, “millions of people will get their hands on one.”

At $99 Samsung Gear VR is the world's most affordable, commercially available consumer VR product.

At $99 Samsung Gear VR is the world’s most affordable, commercially available consumer VR product.

Zuckerberg’s 10 minute presentation was long enough to qualify for a supporting role nomination at the Oscars, but his presence here would have taken the grand prize. And I don’t think Samsung minds one bit.

Facebook’s grand vision for virtual reality is that it is THE next platform, “VR is going to be the most social platform. Pretty soon we’re gonna live in the world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you’re just there in person. (And) VR is the next platform where anyone can create and experience anything that they want.”

Samsung's Gear 360 camera brings 360 video to the masses

Samsung’s Gear 360 camera brings 360 video to the masses

With the launch of their new Gear 360 camera, a Go-Pro like device that can shoot 360 degree video, Samsung is positioning itself as the hardware manufacturer behind the content of tomorrow. Zuckerberg said, “Samsung is the only company in the world that can deliver, at scale, (the technology) required for a good comfortable VR experience.”

For its part, Zuckerberg said Facebook is working to push itself as the best platform for 360 videos. Last September the company rolled out support for 360 degree video in Facebook news feeds. Now with Samsung Gear 360 everyday consumers can create this kind of content, and with devices like Samsung Gear VR everyday consumers can experience them.

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And this is just the beginning. “Right now VR is still mostly used for games and entertainment, but that’s quickly evolving,” Zuckerberg adds, “one day you’re gonna be able to put on a headset and that’s going to change the way you live, and work and communicate.”

Perhaps there really is a lot to be in awe about.

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