YouTube is fully embracing virtual reality, as of today.
YouTube has long offered 360-degree videos so that you can pan around and watch and feel like you're in the middle of the action, though it's not the same as strapping on an immersive VR headset like Oculus Rift, which would undoubtedly be more captivating. Well, Google-owned YouTube must've felt the same way, because it's finally adding virtual reality capabilities with the latest update to its iOS app.
YouTube for iOS now supports Cardboard, Google's own viewer that lets you experience virtual reality. All you need is an iPhone, the latest version of the YouTube app, and Google Cardboard (or any certified viewing peripheral, which you can read more about from here). With Cardboard and the YouTube app, you can watch both 360-degree videos and regular videos for an immersive experience.
Keep in mind the Android version of YouTube has offered support for Google Cardboard since last November. Still, if you want to know how to watch a 360-degree video in virtual reality or any other video on a flat screen in a VR environment, we've explained exactly what to do.
What is Google Cardboard?
Google Cardboard is a do-it-yourself cardboard kit that Google introduced in 2014 but only recently began directly selling via the Google Play Store. You can buy it for $15 and then assemble it to end up with a virtual-reality headset. It's technically considered a simple viewer - because it's not a standalone device that's ready to work from the get-go. It requires an Android or iOS smartphone for a display and processing power.
You can learn more about how Cardboard works from these Pocket-lint pieces:
- Best Google Cardboard rivals: Which cheap VR headset should you buy?
- Google Cardboard review: The cornerstone of mobile VR
- Here are the Star Wars Cardboard headsets
- Google Cardboard Camera app: What you need to know
What are 360-degree videos?
A 360 video is created with a camera system that simultaneously records all 360 degrees of a scene. When watching a 360-degree video either using a computer or mobile device, you can pan and rotate the video's perspective to watch it from different angles. Ever want to see from the perspective of a race car driver? Thanks to 360-degree video and virtual reality, you can.
Many companies and websites now support 360-degree content, including Google-owned YouTube and Facebook, so you don't need a full-blown VR headset, such as Oculus Rift, in order to view this type of media or immerse yourself in the footage. Just open the YouTube app or Facebook app, for instance, or point your browser to the video's URL, and you're good to go.
Here's a playlist of VR-enabled videos on YouTube. You can also go to YouTube's own 360 Video channel by searching for "#360Video". Once you find a 360-degree video in the YouTube app, start playback, then slot your phone in a Google Cardboard viewer, and you'll get that additional sense of depth that YouTube claims makes you feel as though you're actually there.
You can learn more about how to make 360-degree videos from here:
How do you watch 360-degree videos in Cardboard?
- Get your Google Cardboard viewer (see above).
- Download and open the YouTube app.
- Find and playback a 360-degree video (see above).
- Tap the cardboard icon. You'll see the screen splits into two screens.
- Insert your phone into Cardboard.
- Look around to view the video's perspective from all angles.
Can you watch regular YouTube videos in Cardboard?
Yes. YouTube has also added the ability to watch any video with the Cardboard headset - and that includes vlogs, unboxing videos, etc. Using the same setup, Cardboard will create a secluded, virtual, movie theater-style experience. It'll seem like your watching a large screen in a dark room, but the idea is you should feel immersed. It's not VR, but close.
Check out this YouTube blog post for more details.