Streaming in real time often feels like an interactive experience. But one wouldn’t call it “immersive.” That’s because typically the viewer has no control over what they see. That’s no longer the case thanks to the 360 live streaming option. Special cameras allow viewers to actively control what they see during a stream.

In March 2017, Facebook made this exciting option, known as Facebook 360, available to every member of the site. Despite the fanfare, it’s still possible that Facebook users don’t quite grasp Facebook 360, or how it can change their social media forever.

So what is Facebook 360?

As Facebook explains, “A 360 video is created with a camera system that simultaneously records all 360 degrees of a scene. Viewers can pan and rotate a 360 video’s perspective to watch it from different angles.” This can be accomplished by tilting one’s phone or clicking and dragging the screen using a mouse pointer. Whatever the medium, Facebook users are gifted a truly immersive experience. Meanwhile, content creators are given an opportunity to provide unforgettable imagery.

Facebook 360 is an impressive start for the social media site. Still, it’s worth noting Facebook is playing catch up. Techcrunch notes that rival Youtube already allows 360 live streaming for anyone on the site. However, streamers were required “special encoding software.” Facebook 360 will be a comparatively user-friendly experience, with no desktop software required.

What it means for user and content creator experiences

Perhaps the most immediate impact of Facebook 360 is that it brings the site’s content makers and their followers closer together. There’s no onus on the person(s) filming to explain what viewers can’t see. Instead, viewers can control their own streaming experience. It’s a hands on approach to streaming that raises the enjoyment level for all involved.

Perhaps one of the most notable advocates of the Facebook 360 experience is National Geographic. Nat Geo was instrumental to Facebook’s December 2016. Their special Facebook 360 stream featured an interview with scientists emerging from months of isolation as they simulated life on Mars. The stream received more than 2.5 million views.

The best tools for a compatible Facebook 360 experience

For Content creators hoping to take full advantage of Facebook 360, Facebook recommends “Nokia Ozo or Freedom360 Broadcaster rig with Vahana VR for high quality experiences, or the Giroptic iO, Insta360 Nano or Ricoh Theta S for less produced moments.” According to CNET, Samsung Gear 360, ALLie, and Z Cam S1 are also options.

To use Facebook 360 with your chosen product, you need to update your camera’s native app. Next, locate the live streaming option on the camera screen and log in using your Facebook account. From there, content creators have the option of streaming from your profile, page, or group, as well as updating privacy settings.

Where’s the VR connection?

Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects of Facebook 360 is that it wasn’t created with virtual reality (VR) headsets in mind. Although the streams can’t be viewed live, the stream can be replayed later on using a VR headset. It’s entirely possible that Facebook 360 could be adjusted for a virtual 360 experience in the future.

Facebook enjoys an average of 1.87 billion active users each month. Therefore, the potential for memorable Facebook 360 streaming experiences is practically endless. And with Mark Zuckerberg’ admitting to an obsession with streaming, we can only imagine how far the site will take live 360 streaming options.

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