YouTube today will become the first major platform to offer live 360-degree video.
Since March, the Google-owned service has offered 360 video, which allows viewers to see what’s going on in a scene in 360 degrees. Facebook, too, has made 360 video available for some time.
Until now, though, no one of any scale has offered it live. Music fans will be among the very first to experience it when YouTube live-streams the famous Coachella festival in 360-degrees this weekend. YouTube has live-streamed the festival for years, but this will be the first time it has broadcast both weekends of the two-weekend event. Coachella teased 360 video during the first weekend, but it wasn't live.
For users, the video will be available on any device—be it an iPhone, an Android tablet, or the web. People with virtual reality headsets like Google Cardboard or Gear VR will also be able to take advantage of the new service.
In the early going, content creators will be able to automatically produce live 360 YouTube video using one of two consumer-level or prosumer-level cameras—either the ALLie, or VideoStitch’s Orah 4i. Each of those systems comes with technology that auto-stitches imagery from multiple lenses. Creators will eventually also be able to use other 360-degree cameras, like Ricoh’s Theta S, to automatically produce live 360 video, but for now, such devices will require an API.
Facebook did not comment on its plans for live 360 video. Some, like tech commentator Robert Scoble, think widely available live 360 video will be a reality within months. At its recent F8 developers conference, the company unveiled a reference design for its own high-end 360 degree camera.
YouTube chief product officer Neal Mohan told Fast Company that its on-demand 360 video will also feature spatial audio that will allow users to hear what’s happening in the direction it was filmed. That’s a key factor in making realistic VR video, as well as a critical element in VR storytelling.
In the early going, spatial audio for live YouTube 360 video will only be available on Android devices, but the company expects to soon add iOS support, Mohan said.
As for live 360 video, Mohan added that the quality will be high, with support for 1440p at 60 frames per second.
"You can imagine making it feel like you’re in that front-row seat for that Beyoncé concert," Mohan said. Or, this weekend, for Coachella.