Yesterday, Google officially confirmed the launch of their live 360 VR streaming service. The announcement has come at the same time as the NAB (national association of broadcasters) conference, where VR is the real hot topic this year. Youtube aren’t the only tech giant set for big announcements at the NAB, in Las Vegas, with GoPro, Adobe and Sky all set to demonstrate their latest products and services which all focus around virtual reality.
The last two months have seen VR transform from what seemed like a concept to an on shelf product with long awaited hardware dropping and major platforms launching new services to accommodate the shift in technology.
Alongside live streaming in 360 VR, Google have said that the service will include 3D sound in order to improve the audio as well. This will add a new dynamic to the sounds you hear when watching something in VR, as sounds will appear to be coming from different directions and distances away. The idea is that 3D sound will really enhance VR experiences. Virtual reality will change the way we view content so that visuals will appear like they’re coming from all around, so its only right that the sound does too. It will make the whole thing seem more natural.
The news comes shortly after Facebook’s F8 conference, where they announced plans to enhance live streaming and a design for a 360 camera. It seems as if both giants are racing towards the same goal. Whilst we’re still a while away from knowing who will be crowned the king of VR video, it’s clear that Youtube currently have the edge. Facebook still don’t have the ability to stream in 360 despite having optimised the platform to host VR content.
The addition of live 360 streaming should give VR the push it needs to become a mainstream piece of technology. Youtube are set to release an API so that hardware manufacturers can add Live 360 into any of their new products. It seems that VR is no longer trapped behind the closed doors of tech giants but now in reach of the average consumer.
However, whilst recording in 360 has become a relatively easy task, we still face some technical challenges when it comes to streaming live in 360. One of the main problems people face is that their connection isn’t fast enough to view a live 360 stream without the content being over compressed. Whilst we might put up with a slightly compressed 2D video, 360 does not lend itself well to over compression and can appear terribly blurry. In order to combat this, Youtube will be making major changes to their platform, including upping both the resolution and frame rate of content that can uploaded. Creators can now submit content at 1440p and 60 fps (frames per second). It has also added support for both DASH and VP9 codecs. For the less technical among you, this will mean that broadcasters can send half as much data but still supply a high quality stream.
Google have announced that the first bit of content we will see on their virtual reality platform will be a live stream from Coachella festival. We think this will be a great way to kick things off and can’t wait to see how it looks.
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