YouTube and Google Daydream create VR180 video format

YouTube has made several announcements at the 8th annual VidCon, currently taking place at The Anaheim Convention Center, in California. Among the news and initiatives announced were; an update to YouTube viewing figures, an initiative to make VR filming more accessible (VR180), updated YouTube mobile apps and desktop site designs, easier video sharing plans, new original shows coming to YouTube Red, and the announcement of YouTube TV coming to more US regions.

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“VR for everyone”

An interesting new initiative with the backing of camera hardware makers concerns the new VR180 format. When you are watching a VR experience such as a live concert by one of your favourite musicians, for example, how useful is it to be able to look behind you? With this kind of content consumption scenario in mind, YouTube and Google Daydream have worked together on VR180 to make it “easy and affordable for anyone to make VR videos”.

The VR180 format is said to deliver 3D video in 180 degrees. As such creators only have to consider the action in front of the camera viewpoint. Viewers get an almost VR experience looking forward. Another bonus of the format is that it looks good on your phone or desktop computer where VR videos (using equirectangular projection) aren’t so good to watch using anything but an HMD. VR180 facilitates up to 4K stereoscopic videos of this front facing VR view.

In order to “democratize VR video creation” YouTube has been working with the likes of LG, Yi and Lenovo “to build new VR180 cameras for as little as a couple hundred dollars—comparable to what you’d pay for a point-and-shoot”. The first such cameras will be available from retailers this winter. Perhaps some smartphones will be designed packing VR180 cameras too.

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VR180 videos look normal on a phone or computer but adapt to show off their 3D and 180 degree qualities on a headset such as a Cardboard, Daydream, or PSVR. VR180 also supports live streaming.

The other YouTube improvements which will be particularly welcome are the dynamically adapting mobile app, due in coming weeks. “If you’re watching a vertical, square or horizontal video, the YouTube player will seamlessly adapt itself, filling the screen exactly the way they should,” says YouTube. And on the desktop the new experience with dark theme is expected to go prime time in the not too distant future.