Facebook isn’t done adding more features to its Instant Articles product. Starting today, it’ll now display 360 photos and videos shared by publishers, which could be an interesting opening into experiencing news in virtual reality, like with what The New York Times has experimented with.
“We’ve been amazed by all the creative and engaging content that publishers, video creators, and storytellers have shared on Facebook in this immersive new format,” wrote Josh Roberts, a product manager with the social networking company. He describes Instant Articles and 360 degree content as complementary, suggesting that articles and media can be combined in order to “paint more vivid scenes.”
Interested developers will first have to upload their 360 content to Facebook and display it using the company’s native Instant Articles video player. Embed the outputted video into the story and when viewed within the Facebook app, you’ll have a 360 experience … hopefully.
The inclusion of this media type is aimed at providing more of an immersive experience beyond what a flat and static image currently offers. Facebook added support for 360 videos more than a year ago and photos in June. And it appears people are fond of creating these comprehensive views — just look at your News Feed and you might have some from friends and even brands you follow.
News stories can start to look the same across publishers, so a way to keep things different is by having interactive media, and that starts with 360-degree content. So while you’re reading about this week’s presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, instead of seeing a static image of them behind the podiums, perhaps there would be an option to cycle around and see FOX News anchor and debate moderator Chris Wallace and the audience.
Of course there’s also the possibility of leveraging some virtual reality with Instant Articles in the future. Facebook has previously spoken about the potential of VR to transport you to other places, so whether it’s being at the Olympics, a presidential inauguration, a war zone, in a homeless encampment, at a basketball game, or visiting an exotic location, 360 photos and videos can be a suitable substitute for being there in person. And if it’s a news article, this media format can help you feel like you’re a part of it.
Launch partners for this initiative include BILD and the USA Today Network.