Optimize 360 photo tours for Meta Quest headsets

Optimize 360 photo tours for Meta Quest headsets

Learn how to create virtual 360 photo tours that are optimized for Meta Quest headsets.

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Categories:Skills & Principles
Tags:DistributionVR Headset
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Read Time: 3 Minutes

Updated 12/19/2022


360 photo tours are well suited to viewing in headsets. Visitors feel transported into the virtual space more completely and convincingly than is possible on a regular computer or smartphone screen. There are, however, certain limits that the immersive environment imposes, and understanding these points is helpful for creating the most effective immersive virtual tours.

360 photo resolution

Resolution is one of the key factors. For the sharpest results the pixel size of 360 photos used in a virtual tour should be enough that it makes full use of the resolution of the headset’s displays. The Meta Quest displays provide 21 pixels per degree of angular view, so for a 360-degree image to make full use of this it should be no smaller than 21 pixels * 360, or a 7560x3780 equirectangular image. In simple terms this means publishing at 8K – 7680x3840 (8K UHD) to 8192x4096 – in order to ‘fully saturate’ the headset’s screens and show as much detail as the device can present.

Not all 360 cameras will capture photos at this size, so choose your equipment accordingly; it should capture images at a minimum of 7200px wide, and preferably the upper point of 8192px wide. Alternatively, if you shoot and stitch 360 images manually with a regular camera and a dedicated panoramic head you can create very high resolution work including gigapixel panoramas. See Set up a panoramic head to shoot high-resolution 360 photos for details.

Modern virtual tour-building software will convert very large 360 photos into ‘multiresolution’ tile sets so that only the right resolution data is shown as someone looks around. This means a tour will load quickly, look good on a variety of different screen sizes, and even allow zooming in to examine details. But zooming isn’t supported in immersive, headset-based playback, so if the tour is only meant for headset use it is better to resize large source images down to the 8K point that best suits the device. This is normally done before loading images into the tour production toolkit, although some software can do this for you as part of the tour generation step.

Buttons, skins and hotspots

Simple virtual tours will typically have nothing more than navigation hotspots strategically placed to help viewers find their way around. See the photography section of Create & Build for examples of how to create this in standard virtual tour software. Virtual tours viewed in browsers on regular computers and smartphones can be enhanced with ‘skin’ overlays, allowing graphics, maps, buttons and other elements to show persistently on top of the scene. Standard virtual tour skins are not supported in immersive environments, so enhancements must be done using interactive and rich media elements (graphics, hotspot buttons and so on) placed within each scene. This still allows for a great deal of creative freedom, as it can include embedded video and audio media, gaze or controller-triggered actions, live web content and so on.

Color space

Whatever color space you prefer to use when shooting and editing images, the final files should be set to sRGB before being used in virtual tour production software. In Photoshop this is done by choosing Edit > Convert to Profile and setting the destination color space to sRGB. Leaving images in a wider gamut space such as Adobe RGB will lead to reduced color saturation in the final work, as the broader gamut will be mapped into the more restricted sRGB space.

Online or local storage

Tours can be stored online and accessed in headsets using the Meta Quest browser. If this is the preferred option try to keep the URL relatively short, as typing in headsets isn’t as fluid as typing on a physical keyboard. Alternatively, some virtual tour production tools offer dedicated Meta Quest-compatible player apps for storing and playing tours directly in a headset. This method is useful where the headset can be managed beforehand and where Internet access isn’t guaranteed, such as at public events or when visiting clients.