Flickr has today released their Gear VR app that lets you browse through some its best user-generated 360 photos—all at an impressively high quality and delivered at a speed that’s quicker than you can say ‘Revontulikaari’ (that’s ‘Northern Lights Arc’ in Finnish).
The Yahoo-owned Flickr platform has made its way to Gear VR with its new Flickr VR app, giving you access to a select number out of their user-generated photo library of an estimated 60,000 panoramic photos.
360 photos in the right format already receive the ‘click and navigate’ treatment on the website itself, as Flickr will automatically detect equirectangular photos upon upload and enable the 360 viewer on the photo page.
There’s been some talk about developing a Gear VR app among the site’s ‘Equirectangular’ group—the platform’s largest group dedicated to uploading 360 photos with over 1,700 members posting nearly 15,000 photos—for some months now. The official Flickr VR app sources many of the group’s photos, mostly because any non-equirectangular images (360×180 with a 2:1 width/height proportion) are removed automatically.
I found browsing through the Northern Lights or The Horseshoe Bend on Flickr VR to be easy, and most of all quick in its transitions. You might sit for a half-second in a Tron-like waiting room between photos if you dart around too much in the menu, but it seems that the app automatically pre-loads the next 4 or 5 photos once you’re actually inside of one, so swiping left or right to navigate the next photo is instantaneous. All of the photos I visited—likely hand-picked from the top contributors—are some of the highest quality 360 photos I’ve seen. Swiping to the right or left on the touchpad almost felt like like tossing in random slide wheels to an old ViewMaster like when I was a kid.
That said, there is currently no way to sort through 360 content, as the carousel menu just automatically loads another random block of 12 photos—making the app pretty limited with how you can explore content. There are also no names attached to the photo previews, so the only way to find out really what’s inside is by clicking on it. Some of this can be blamed on the device’s resolution however, as offering small, hard-to-read text would go against the app’s overall visual finesse.
It’s clear however that if Flickr wants to ride the approaching wave of user-generated 360 photos that’s sure to come when cheaper consumer-level 360 cameras come to market, they’ll need to find a more suitable way to let VR headset owners search and filter through photos.
If you want to see some of the high-quality panoramic photos we’ve mentioned here, the Equirectangular group is a good place to browse, and also join if you’re hoping to get some of your work on the official Flickr VR app.