After launching support for 360-degree videos in March 2015, YouTube has now flicked on the switch for live streaming of 360-degree videos with spatial audio.
Athletes, artists and brands have used 360-degree videos to deeply immerse viewers in events and locations. Live streaming of 360-degree videos would provide an even deeper plunge, with the feature to be first used by YouTube at the ongoing Coachella music festival in California.
Live 360 content on YouTube is seen as the link between the videos that people are watching today and virtual reality, which as a platform is still a comparatively young one. It should be noted that 360-degree videos are not the same as virtual reality, but these videos are helping fill the current gap in content for virtual reality platforms.
"As a user, you don't need to do anything," said Google exec Neal Mohan on how easy it would be to access the feature, adding that there is no need to integrate or purchase fancy technology to view live 360-degree videos on YouTube.
Mohan's comments seem to be directed at the virtual reality headsets that are recently entering the market, such as Facebook's Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. These devices cost hundreds of dollars, in addition to requiring powerful PCs to properly run which could cost at least $1,000.
YouTube is not only focusing on the visual aspect though, as aside from launching the first 360-degree live streaming service, YouTube will also be the first video platform to launch spatial audio at scale.
Spatial audio means that viewers will be able to hear the audio of the video the same way that people in the event being recorded are hearing the sounds. Depth, distance and intensity will be playing a role in the live 360-degree videos, according to Mohan. The feature will only be available to on-demand videos at launch though, and only accessible by users on Android smartphones while wearing headphones.
With all these changes coming to YouTube, viewers will be able to enjoy immersive experiences through 360-degree videos and spatial audio without having to splurge on hardware. For most viewers, the zero cost of entry would be the best part about YouTube's new features.