Solving a conundrum that plagues the more idly-inclined among us, YouTube have revealed that they are developing a 360-degree, virtual reality compatible live-streaming video service – giving you all of the benefits of going outside without any of that irritating weather, movement and social interaction that so often go hand in hand with doing so.
Live streaming video has been growing in popularity lately, with Periscope’s dedicated service paving the way, and Facebook and YouTube both throwing their chips in.
It was only ever going to be a matter of time before it was combined with virtual reality which first really hit the mainstream with the introduction of 360 degree videos on YouTube and Facebook.
YouTube have been live-streaming the festival in a more conventional format for years, and offered 360 degree uploaded clips from the first weekend of California’s famed Coachella festival this year.
And now, in a move that will make the BBC’s rolling coverage of Glastonbury over here seem borderline bucolic, certain sets from next weekend will be live-streamed in full 360 degree VR compatible form on the Coachella YouTube account.
YouTube’s Neal Mohan said:
“After years of live-streaming Coachella for fans around the world who can’t attend the festival, this year we’re bringing you the concert like never before by live streaming the festival in 360 degrees with select artist performances.”
The 360 videos can be viewed on a computer, using the mouse to drag and change your perspective, but they really come into their own on a mobile device, when you just need to move the device itself to shift your viewpoint.
The videos will, for now, work with basic VR tools like the Google Cardboard phone accessory but not with full-scale VR tech like the Occulus Rift.
YouTube are also working on integrating 3D spatial audio technology into their video services, making the sound much more realistic and immersive.
The addition spatial audio is not to be understated; combining these with visual VR capability can really make you feel like you are there, inside the video, outside in the world.
Only you can be in your pants at home, and no one will know.
Virtual Reality: Revolutionary or Voyeuristic?
Virtual reality is a technology that courts as much controversy as it does straightforward popularity and intrigue.
According to one camp, it is a revolutionary means for for both education and entertainment; being hailed as a tool to cure phobias and train soldiers, as well as taking video gaming into a brand new paradigm.
For the other, it is a form of exclusionary voyeurism, disconnecting us from our fellow man as we fall ever deeper into a technological rabbit hole.
Those in the latter camp are the same who lament about the negative correlation between connection to the internet on a smartphone and genuine connection to the real people we interact with on those very same devices. And they have a point, but here the line between cautious cynic and luddite can blur.
Yes, virtual reality should be treated with caution.
Yes, that picture of Mark Zuckerberg striding past a crowd of plugged-in conference goers looked scary (until very reasonable explanations were given for why it is not).
And yes, the inevitable explosion of virtual reality porn isn’t going to propel until us into a new era of knowledge and understanding (though one Guardian columnist makes an interesting case for why it might).
However, it is an exciting technology, the positive uses for which are boundless. Take, for example, the world’s first VR streamed operation; hailing a potentially very important revolution in medical training.
Mark Zuckerberg himself made an interesting point, responding to the claims that that image was representative of a new Orwellian nightmare:
“You could probably go all the way back to the first books, I bet people said ‘why should you read when you could talk to other people?’ The point of reading is that you get to deeply immerse yourself in a person’s perspective. Right? Same thing with newspapers or phones or TVs. Soon it will be VR, I bet.”