Facebook tests web-based VR within News Feed posts

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Facebook is bringing 3D virtual reality experiences into its 2D News Feed.

The social network is testing a way for developers to produce web-based VR experiences that people can interact with through posts in Facebook’s News Feed, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed on Friday. The test uses Facebook’s React VR web development framework that was unveiled in April for developers to produce interactive VR experiences that people could access through a web browser.

“We are testing integration of React VR into the News Feed with a few partners. We’ll have more to share on additional rollout at a later date,” said the Facebook spokesperson in an emailed statement.

Oculus product manager Andrew Mo shared some details about the test during a session last week at the Facebook-owned VR company’s Oculus Connect developer conference in San Jose, Calif. According to the session, people will be presented with a 360-degree video in their Facebook News Feed that previews the VR experience. If people tap on the post, the full-screen VR experience will load within Facebook so that people can pan around and tap on objects within the experience.

Mo gave the example of the British Museum, which has worked with Oculus to build a browser-based VR tour of its museum. I have not been able to find a live version of the experience that Mo presented during the Oculus Connect session, but the British Museum posted a teaser video to its Facebook Page earlier this year.

Facebook has been increasingly building bridges between its traditional 2D social network and the 3D world of virtual reality. After acquiring Oculus in 2014, the company officially launched a VR version of its social network, Facebook Spaces, earlier this year. And last week the company debuted a new News Feed post format called 3D Posts that enables people to share objects they created in VR with their friends on Facebook. These moves appear designed to raise people’s awareness of and exposure to VR.

But exposing the more than 2 billion people on Facebook each month to actual VR has an even higher potential of generating mainstream interest in the medium that has taken a backseat to augmented reality, which is more accessible after having been popularized by the likes of Snapchat, Apple and Google.

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