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YouTube Wants You to See the World From Every Angle

April 21, 2016

YouTube on Monday announced the rollout of live-streaming 360-degree video and spatial audio, part of the company's push to boost its reach in the growing market for immersive video and virtual reality.

The company has provided support for 360-degree video for more than a year, but it has been working with content creators to push the technology even further to bring fans into live events when they cannot be there themselves, Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said.

"What excites me most about 360-degree storytelling is that it lets us open up the world's experiences to everyone," he said.

YouTube worked with VideoStitch and Two Big Ears to make their software compatible with 360-degree live-streams or spacial audio on YouTube, Mohan noted, adding that more will be available soon.

The technology also will be available at YouTube Space locations around the world, including New York, London, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, and Mumbai, India, he said.

Immersive Experiences

YouTube recognizes that the next great immersive experience will be fed by affordable 360-degree cameras, such as the Ricoh Theta S digital camera, as well as high-performance camera rigs for real-time feeds, said Kevin Krewell, senior analyst at Tirias Research.

"The 360 video transports the viewer into the scene and is going to be the center of immersive experiences at concerts special events breaking news, educational programs, corporate promotional videos, etc.," he told TechNewsWorld. "The experience would be best in a VR headset or Google cardboard, but even a flat display can allow panning around the scene for a more intimate experience."

Its announcement may be a bit early for market demand, but that will grow as the number of 360-degree cameras grows and more content becomes available, Krewell said.

YouTube Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl unveiled the company's 360-degree video strategy at CES earlier this year. The company entered a deal with GoPro to support 360-degree video content and 4K HDR, or high dynamic range video.

Competitive Field

While YouTube may be ahead of the game in live-streaming 360-degree video, an increasingly crowded field of social media companies is embracing virtual reality and live-streaming in a way that eventually will converge into the same competitive space, noted Susan Schreiner, analyst at C4 Trends.

"While YouTube might be the first with live-streaming, others like Facebook also have many of the pieces of this burgeoning ecosystem, from the cameras and the apps to Oculus Rift," she told TechNewsWorld.

Twitch has the VR apps and supports VR content, and Meerkat and Periscopelikely are working on developing their presence in VR as well, Schreiner noted.

"It will likely attract people who have heard about 360 but never actually experienced it," said Mike Jude, program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

"The bigger question is whether 360 will actually catch on," he told TechNewsWorld.

In many ways, 360 TV is little more than an improvement on 3D TV, which quickly became a niche market, Jude said. "YouTube may be able to generate a wider audience for 360, but it remains to be seen."

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