YouTube has just announced a couple of new features this week for its popular Android app, that focus on virtual reality (VR), giving the growing technology its most important platform yet.
The app on Android supports VR video, which is a format that YouTube says gives more realistic 360 degree capabilities to films uploaded by users with special hardware.
YouTube to support virtual reality movies
In order to view the VR movies, users simply need to find a relevant video on the YouTube app, and hit a button for VR mode. After that, it’s a case of putting the phone in Google’s Cardboard viewer – a device made from cardboard that recreates a virtual reality viewing experience.
VR content authors can upload special videos that work with the Cardboard viewer directly to the video sharing website. YouTube said there are currently a dozen or so VR movies available.
YouTube also announced that viewers will be able to watch any of the current videos in a more limited virtual reality mode with Cardboard, and that in this case the videos will be more akin to an IMAX experience.
Neil Schneider, executive director of VR organisation the Immersive Technology Alliance, said that YouTube introduced 3D videos back in 2009 and was an early adopter of HD video.
“It’s not surprising they would take the angle of adding virtual reality”, he said.
Schneider says there will soon be an explosion in high quality VR content, but that amateur videos may be harder to find because production of such VR videos is still quite expensive.
However, Jay Iorio, a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers who has previously created movies for Cardboard and the Oculus Rift VR headset, believes that VR recording capabilities will come to smartphones.
“The equipment I have right now, people will probably have on their phones in a couple years”.
The Oculus Rift will be available next year at a price of between $300 and $350, whereas Cardboard costs between $5 and $50.
The new YouTube app with VR capability is currently available only on Android, but an iOS version will be released soon, says YouTube.
Larry Banks is a keen follower of technology and finance. He has worked for a variety of online publications, writing about a diverse range of topics including mobile networks, patents, and Internet video delivery technologies.