Rumor confirmed. Google-owned YouTube is adding live streaming for 360-degree videos, as reports from February suggested. YouTube didn’t say when the new feature would roll out widely, but we will get our first look at it in the coming days.
Select performances during the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this weekend will be broadcast on YouTube using 360-degree live video. The festival began on Friday, April 15 and ends on Sunday, April 24. Google is also adding 360-degree live streaming capability to its eight YouTube Space locations around the world.
In addition to live streaming for 360-degree videos, YouTube is also adding spatial audio to select on-demand (not live) YouTube videos. Spatial audio uses special technology to make it sound like you’re actually in the space of the recording. It allows the listener to get a sense of “depth, distance, and intensity” from the originating sound.
Android users can get a sense of what spatial audio is like with this playlist on YouTube. Just make sure you use headphones.
Google added spatial audio to Cardboard in January to enhance the experience of the company’s virtual reality platform for mobile devices. It’s not clear when spatial audio might hit 360-degree live streaming as the new feature is in its early stages and only for standard YouTube on-demand videos.
YouTube says it is working with spatial audio software platform Two Big Ears to make it easier for that company’s technology to work with YouTube. YouTube is doing the same for 360-degree live video by working with VideoStich.
Why this matters: Virtual reality is the big craze for 2016, and Google wants YouTube to be ready once it goes mainstream. Headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are already available, but they are primarily geared toward gaming. For now, Google’s focus is on mobile VR and its Cardboard platform, which is probably why spatial audio landed on Android first. By the time everyone has a virtual reality headset in their home—assuming that actually happens—YouTube should be ready to deliver all its features, including live broadcasting, in 360-degree glory.