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YouTube launches a new video format for virtual reality without the 360 view

Image used with permission by copyright holder
Move over, 360 videos — there is a new video format in town. On Thursday, YouTube launched VR180, a 3D virtual reality format with a 180-degree perspective.

“VR180 video focuses on what’s in front of you, are high resolution, and look great on desktop and on mobile,” YouTube Product Manager Frank Rodriguez wrote, explaining the perks of the new format. “They transition seamlessly to a VR experience when viewed with Cardboard, Daydream, and PSVR, which allow you to view the images stereoscopically in 3-D, where near things look near, and far things appear far. VR180 also supports live-streaming videos so creators and fans can be together in real time.”

The move is an interesting one but could prove to be vital to the growth of virtual reality videos. A recent YouTube statistic suggests that viewers spend 75 percent of the time looking at the front portion of 360 videos anyways. The wide perspective still allows viewers to turn their head, but does not show the view from behind.

While 360 is a fun, immersive format, the video type is overused for scenes that really are not interesting from every angle. The new VR180 format allows the same VR effects and headset compatibility but gives the creator more compositional control — not to mention the ability to hide a crew and other video gear.

With half the perspective of 360, a 4K 180VR camera will have better quality than a 4K 360 camera, since the footage is not stretching so far.

Google’s Daydream team is already working with camera developers to design the equipment to record the format, expected to launch this winter. The company says the new cameras will be as simple as using a point-and-shoot and cost roughly the same as a compact camera. 180-degree cameras are now expected from Yi, Lenovo, and LG through a partnership with Google. YouTube users can also apply to rent one of the cameras to be one of the first to broadcast in the new format.

YouTube also says that the format will soon be compatible with popular video editors, including Adobe Premiere Pro.

In conjunction with YouTube’s announcement, Yi Technology announced the development of its compatible camera, which has not yet been named. The camera will be a stereo 3D 180-degree camera with a compact body. Live-streaming capability will also be included.

While three companies already working with Google on developing cameras for the new format, the videos could be arriving even sooner. On Friday, LucidCam announced the launch of its 3D camera which is capable of shooting 360 as well as 180 by turning off half the lenses to switch the viewing mode. The crowdfunded camera will be available without the crowdfunding risk, with retail sales beginning on Monday.

Other manufacturers could follow suit using firmware to use only half the camera’s lenses, but those cameras would have to already have 3D capability to get the full effect from VR180, something that is still rare even from consumer 360-video cameras.

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