It may be a tad later than originally anticipated, but YouTube has just added support for 360-degree videos, making the massive video sharing site more useful to owners of VR headsets. Google said it would have the feature ready in "the coming weeks" back in January, and now it's here on a small selection of videos. More are expected as a new crop of 360-degree cameras make their way on sale this year.
Android first, iOS later
The appeal of 360-degree videos is that you can look around the scene while they're playing, making action sports videos in particular that much more exciting and interactive. Viewing it on something like Oculus or Google Cardboard lets you simply move your head, as if you were there. You can also view them from YouTube's Android app (which tracks how you're holding the device to change what's on screen), and on YouTube.com. YouTube says it's working to get it on Apple' iOS devices, and on other platforms later.
Right now, the number of these types of clips is small, but could increase now that 360-degree camera systems are coming onto the market. That includes Kickstarter phenom Giroptic and its 360cam, which records the action from three different directions, Bublcam (which records from four, 190-degree lenses), and Ricoh's Theta. Google also says it's working to get video shot on IC Real Tech’s Allie and Kodak’s SP360 to work smoothly. Videos shot on all these cameras need to go through a special upload process, though YouTube says it's working on its uploader so that 360-degree video will be identified automatically.
Here's an early example of a 360-degree video. You can move around it using the navigation dial in the top left:
The new feature is YouTube's latest try at expanding how users interact with videos. Last month, it began testing a way to change camera angles during videos, something that requires videomakers to upload and combine multiple clips along the same timeline. This new 360-degree feature is aimed more at action sports rather than concert enthusiasts. Google's also tying it up with Street View so that people can view geotagged 360-degree videos when browsing Google Maps.