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YouTube brings live 360 video streams and spatial audio to the VR party

YouTube has taken 360 degree video two steps further, bringing support for live streams and spatial audio to the table. 

While 360 degree video has been available on YouTube for over a year now, allowing Google Cardboard owners to plug directly into experiences while everyone else to manually pans around on their desktops, all such stabs at VR immersion have been limited to pre-recorded experiences. 

Now that creators and studios can set up live 360 degree video, the doors are open for the likes of Sky, which is investing heavily in VR content, the BBC and Virgin Media deliver live experiences straight to viewer’s eyeballs. 

Related: How to shoot a VR video and share it on YouTubeYouTube’s chief product officer Neal Moham said in a blog post that he sees live sports experiences, concerts and travel content driving adoption of live 360 video and specifically names VideoStitch and Two Big Ears as companies YouTube’s working with to bring 360 degree live streams or spatial audio to YouTube. 

Spatial audio, which dynamically shifts the audio balance of a VR experience depending on where the diegetic sound is coming from in the video. For example in Virgin Media’s recent 360 ad spot, when we turned our head to the left, we got a right earful of the music being played at the other end of the virtual room. It’s a clever trick that greatly enhances the feeling of ‘going under’ when you pop on a pair of VR goggles. 

To get a better idea of how spatial audio works, you can stream this YouTube playlist on your Android device – don’t forget to plug your headphones in. 

It’s been a fairly big week for VR; at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) convention in Las Vegas, we’ve seen GoPro announce its own live VR platform Customs Solutions and Motion Impossible, who collaborated with Virgin Media on the aforementioned ad, unveil their new Mantis 360 stabilised remote dolly. 

The news comes after Sky’s creative director of new products Andrew Olson described the current vogue for VR as akin to the talkies era of cinema in a recent chat with Recombu

Olson said: “There are absolutely interesting and compelling cases for narrative storytelling in virtual reality, but I think we’re just scratching the surfaces of the challenges of that,” said Olson. “How long a narrative story arc really works with the headset on that way… I don’t think anyone really knows yet. The social opportunities are fascinating as well, so it’s just a really interesting area. It’s tremendously fun, frankly, to be here at the beginning of it.” 



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