YouTube made some big announcements on their blog today, both of which are big features for content creators on YouTube who like experimenting with the latest video technology as well as hinting at a larger focus around virtual reality in the next version of Android.
360° Live Video
Although YouTube has supported 360° video, where the entire space is captured and users can spin around to see it, support has been limited to videos already created and edited. Now YouTube is taking this video support to live streams as well. At Coachella, which YouTube has already been streaming live, some performances will be streamed live in 360 degrees. This allows the user to get a better, more immersive look at the entire experience of Coachella rather than just seeing it played back on a screen.
The Verge will also be doing a live 360 degree stream this Wednesday night.
The above news is great; users can already spin around in VR to get a good look at the concert. What they haven’t had is spatial audio. This is crucial for realism in virtual reality. People’s ears don’t hear everything around them equally. People are harder to hear when they’re behind us compared to being face to face. There are special microphones, which are usually shaped like actual ears, in order to capture sound like a human does. When watching in 3d, the direction we face affects the things we hear. Moreover, when we listen in stereo like with headphones, the sounds of the city or nature feel much more realistic.
To demonstrate this, YouTube has compiled a list of different video samples ranging from a face-to-face conversation to cinematic short films. If you want to watch these, it works best on Google Cardboard with headphones.
These new features are going to improve the cinematic experience that one can get through YouTube. Although one question is how Android TV will factor into these features. While the YouTube app on Android TV doesn’t fully support 360 degree video right now, future versions should if this feature plans to grow in popularity. Having a “free movement” or “explore” mode in the video controls could allow the user to pivot around the space using their DPAD and then manually exit this mode when the user wants to pause the video. There hasn’t been any hints as to how this feature would be implemented, but that would be my guess.