Google and YouTube Team Up for a New Virtual Reality Format

June 23, 2017 - 2 minutes read

It seems like the virtual reality hype has subsided somewhat these days, replaced by a surge of enthusiasm for augmented reality. Apple, Google, and Facebook are placing their bets on AR as the next world-changing tech innovation, pushing their VR aspirations to the back-burner. The general public just isn’t sold on VR yet, perhaps in part because the technology hasn’t caught up to the bold dreams of the VR visionaries. But the app development community has high hopes for VR180, the new VR format from Google’s Daydream division and YouTube. This simpler virtual reality experience could ease the technology into the mainstream, laying the groundwork for the bigger innovations ahead.

Google’s VR180 format doesn’t aim for the totally immersive 360-degree experience, which is a challenge to shoot and often not all that impressive to watch, especially on a flat screen. Instead, videos will have an 180-degree field of view. This means that videos shot in VR180 will be watchable on a flat screen even without VR apparatus. But if NYC app developers have the proper hardware, these videos will be transformed into you-are-there 3D experiences.

Shooting videos in this format will require special VR180-certified cameras, which are now in development from the likes of Yi, LG, and Lenovo, among other companies. Little is known about the design of these new Google-approved cameras, but a leaked drawing of the Lenovo design makes it look as if they will have two wide angle lenses capable of capturing stereoscopic video. Unlike the complicated 360-degree VR cameras, the VR180 cameras will operate much like a normal camera, and the footage can be edited with the typical software. The cameras are expected to hit the market by the end of the year, and they will be priced so that even cash-strapped app developers can afford one. The consumer-friendly price tag and straightforward functioning will break down the barriers to VR creation, allowing more artists and amateurs to experiment with VR — and with this experimentation, expect new viewers too.

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