In a blog post authored by YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan, the video-streaming service introduced 360-degree live streaming to its platform. 360-degree videos have been supported on the video-sharing network since March last year, but live-streaming literally adds another dimension to the YouTube viewing experience. The website specifically mentioned that it would live stream the Coachella festival.
YouTube will, however, only broadcast performances by certain artists at the event in 360 degree format; prominent artists are hence likely to get more screen time. The limited screening option will still be useful for individuals who cannot go to Coachella; the latest development will allow users to pick whichever angles they want, instead of relying on the cameraman to pick out the best shots. Theoretically, if a fight breaks out in the middle of the crowd, users can use their newly-discovered freedom of movement via 360-degree videos to just focus on that instead of the artist.
YouTube has also launched the new spatial audio format for certain on-demand videos, aiming to provide an immersive experience. Users with Android devices can listen to a handpicked YouTube playlist from their device to give them an idea of what the new sound format is like. Mr. Mohan wrote, “Spatial audio allows you to listen along as you do in real life, where depth, distance and intensity all play a role.” Basically, users will hear sounds based on the direction they were recorded from in real-life. The only drawback to this feature might be that far away conversations might not be as easy to listen to, which can be a problem if a theater performance was being streamed live.
YouTube has collaborated with companies such as VideoStitch, Two Big Ears, Orah 4i, ALLie, and Vahana VR. The companies have ensured that YouTube’s features are compatible with their software. More companies will eventually be brought on board as well.
Content creators can shoot their own videos by using a 360-camera rig to live stream events. Given that GoPro’s Omni costs a small fortune from a budding video enthusiast’s point-of-view, alternatives such as the $499 ALLie Camera by IC Real Tech might be better suited for customers. For those who just want to try out the spatial audio or 360-degree live-streaming technology first, YouTube Space locations across the globe allow content creators to get a first-hand experience of the new service. Mr. Mohan mentioned useful applications for the service — students, travelers, sports, and music enthusiasts can all visit locations without leaving the confines of their home. Live 360-degree streaming certainly appears to be a cost-effective alternate to actually traveling or making long journeys — and without spending that much money. 360-degree video viewers can have experiences ranging across a number of fields; a travel enthusiast who also happens to be a sports and music fan can experience everything by just investing in a good phone.
It is interesting to note that spatial audio is not necessarily bundled with 360-degree videos; the Coachella festival, for instance, will not include spatial audio. The feature is also currently limited to Android devices.
Other than these features, YouTube will also support 1440p 60fps resolution for live streams, providing a better way to watch live 360 videos. All that is missing now is the option to view these videos on a large screen, as watching live streams while having to hold a smartphone or tablet can be a bit cumbersome. Having a large screen, which one can perhaps control with hand motions (as with the Xbox Kinect) to change the view in a 360-degree environment might be the next stage in the evolution of such videos. The YouTube app is already available on Smart TVs — it might not be far-fetched to imagine this feature becoming a reality.
For now, the new features will certainly help increase YouTube’s attractiveness as a live video website amidst increasing competition by social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. With VR tech also becoming increasingly crucial to the future of tech giants, the 360-degree live-streaming feature might just help YouTube keep its place at the top as the premier video-streaming service.