Live Virtual Reality on YouTube - A Game-Changer For The Industry


In April, YouTube announced that it was launching its live-streaming for 360 video, something which none of the competition currently offer. The service was launched with California's Coachella music and arts festival - the very first thing to be broadcast by YouTube in this format. This offers a whole world of possibilities for the virtual reality industry as it opens up the technology to YouTube’s huge global audience.  This has provided the opportunity for millions of users with virtual reality headsets or standard web browsers to watch some of the festival’s performances as if they were actually there.

360 videos (sometimes called virtual reality videos) have been supported by YouTube since March 2015, but this is the first time the live element has been added. Despite 360 live streaming being nothing new, YouTube’s announcement brings the technology into the limelight and increases excitement around the concept. YouTube's plan to allow 360 live streaming on its platform could transform the way its huge global audience experiences events. Broadcasting on YouTube puts even the smallest events in front of the millions of people which visit the website every day.

In addition to the 360 live streaming, YouTube have also announced that they will be supporting binaural sound. This is essentially 3D sounds for 360 video which simulates the source of the noise, so when a user is looking in different directions the perceived direction of the sound changes. This technology enables a greater sense of presence and a higher degree of immersion when watching 360 videos, something which is key for live events. Binaural sound is something that no other company is supporting and YouTube hopes it will help them gain an advantage in what is quickly becoming a very competitive market.

Live streaming is now a well established medium. With platforms such as Twitch attracting millions of unique viewers every month, and rumours that Facebook are working on a standalone camera app that will also be able to live stream video, streaming is here to stay. However, 360 live streaming is relatively new and is much more complex, requiring professional know-how and equipment to achieve good looking content. The potential of 360 live streaming video for events is tremendous. Imagine being able to sit down, put on your VR headset and suddenly be in the front row at a sports event or show, or even be live on stage with your favourite band. The possibilities are truly endless.

This technology opens up a new range of opportunities for event organisers too, being able to offer participation not limited to just being at the event. Currently, event organisers are limited to event attendees and perhaps a live online stream, but this offers a limited experience and is often unappealing to people. However, with the increasingly immersive nature that 360 live streaming gives viewers it heightens the appeal and offers an opportunity for more people experience an event. This could open up another potential revenue stream for event organisers.

You may be surprised to hear that for streaming a 4K (which is very high quality) 360 video you only require around an 8mbps internet connection. Which is lower than most conventional streaming. This is because, generally speaking, 360 video has very few cuts (changes of camera angles), if any, and the video content is quite stable - the camera doesn’t move, for instance. This allows us to make the inter-frame compression work much more effectively, thus allowing a lower internet connection to be used. From this day forward, even events which are in remote locations (such as festivals) can host a 360 live streaming video, so now all events organisers can benefit from the technology.

360 live streaming is an incredibly exciting area for us to work in, not least because of its storytelling capabilities and ability to open up the world’s experiences to anyone. Never before has it been so possible for people to feel part of the crowd, without actually being at the event. With YouTube’s announcement it opens up the ability to reach a wider audience and allow more people to immersively experience events as they unfold… exciting times ahead!

Just imagine being able to watch something like this live on YouTube in 360: