Mark Zuckerberg's surprise appearance at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona Sunday gave the virtual reality industry a bigger boost than any other announcement since Facebook's $2 billion purchase of Oculus two years ago.
After watching a video in VR, audience members took off their headsets and were treated to a surprise presentation from Zuckerberg in which he announced that Facebook and Samsung are partnering to to make VR videos more social. Currently, most VR experiences are solitary--it's one person wearing a headset to play a game or watch something.
Facebook wants to make VR experiences something you do with other people, USA Today reports. So, you might put on a VR headset to virtually sit in front of a campfire with friends or study in a classroom with other students.
To this end, the company has assembled a VR team that will focus on building social apps that can be experienced using Samsung's $99 Gear VR headset. The Samsung-branded headsets are built using Oculus technology (they say "powered by Oculus" on every device) and are designed to hold your phone in front of your eyes.
"Imagine holding a group meeting or event anywhere in the world that you want," Zuckerberg said at the event. "Instead of just navigating to 2-D websites, you could transport yourself entirely to a whole other place and feel like you were really there in reality."
Zuckerberg's presentation coincided with Samsung's unveiling of its latest, most virtual reality-friendly smartphone, the Galaxy S7, and its new 360-degree camera, the Gear 360, which has two lenses that shoot video simultaneously.
"Together, this is by far the best mobile VR experience you can offer," Zuckerberg said.
The presentation reinforces Zuckerberg's 2014 prediction that social experiences in the future will increasingly rely on VR technology.
"This is really a new communication platform," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post announcing the company's acquisition of Oculus in 2014. "We believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people."