Yesterday Google and YouTube officially announced the VR180 platform which will mainly consist of new hardware coming from various partners, that will allow users to create 180-degree videos that can be viewed on YouTube through the YouTube VR app on Daydream, the standard YouTube mobile app and the desktop version of YouTube. While VR180 videos will be visible on all versions of YouTube, Google is making it quite clear that videos created with these upcoming cameras will be designed for viewing in Daydream headsets (such as the standalone one being manufactured by Lenovo) and to actually turn and see the wider field of view that is being captured you'll need to watch these videos with a VR headset. While VR180 isn’t really true VR technology it’s certainly going to make Daydream more accessible to the majority and it should be a nice bridge to mainstream VR when the majority of consumers actually have access to a VR headset. As it stands right now VR tech still feels like a niche product. One that only the most discerning customers and tech aficionados care to get their hands on, but VR180 could help normalize the VR space for the average consumer a little bit by appealing to their love of sharing moments on the world’s largest video sharing platform.
A vast amount of people share all kinds of stuff on YouTube, and VR180 Cameras are going to open up a new space for unique content on the platform. 360 cameras are a similar product that allow for immersive content but these are likely to be more expensive, although that will depend on the cost of the VR180 cameras once they hit the market, and those prices will be decided by the manufacturers which so far are Lenovo, Yi Technology, and LG. If the prices are right though and they come in cheaper than 360 cameras, they'll be more obtainable by mainstream consumers and perhaps give the push needed to get more people interested in the future of virtual reality, and the process for uploading videos will be the same as if you were recording a regular video so there will be no need for stitching content together. YouTube is even getting the ball rolling by releasing a handful of VR180 videos from various creators that you can watch right now, though keeping in mind that the collection of videos will need a VR headset if you want to see the entire 180-degrees of what was caught on camera.
While there's not currently a massive amount of content on the Daydream platform or other platforms like Gear VR, VR180 could help change that, and more content is going to be a good way to get more people interested in VR technology. The ease of use of the cameras is likely to sit well with consumers too as they're essentially point and shoot cameras. They're to be around the same size, and using them is going to be about the same and as simple of a process, followed by the just as simple task of uploading, provided you don't want to do any editing to the video first.
It' that simplicity that will likely hook consumers to give the cameras a try, because point and shoot cameras are familiar and have been around for decades, whereas 360 cameras have really only been around at a consumer level for a short period of time, and because they're new and unfamiliar to many consumers they won't be as easy to use, which likely has less people interested. The VR180 cameras aren't expected to hit the market until this coming Winter, so they're probably going to be ready just in time for the holidays, which means there might be an influx of VR180 videos hitting YouTube around Christmas time and the following few months, after which you'll be able to see more videos like the one depicted in the GIF image below.
Sure VR technology is cool and there is a fair amount of great content to enjoy, but creating VR content isn't exactly easy and it's still not really aimed at the mainstream. VR180 might be able to normalize things a bit more and act as a stepping stone to future VR technology and content. So long as VR180 cameras are inexpensive they won't be too out of reach, and with a growing list of VR compatible hardware like Daydream-ready phones, the Daydream View headset, and the list of Galaxy devices that pair with the Gear VR, watching these videos as they're meant to be viewed should be possible for a decent number of consumers. It seems to be a smart play by YouTube as they're jumping headlong into fully immersive VR, and perhaps that's just what the VR industry needs.