Virtual reality can be a fun experience, and more phones than ever support VR capabilities. That makes mobile VR easy for people to start using. While VR is cool, the main issue is a lack of content. Google hopes to change that with its VR180 video format. It introduced VR180 last year, and the first consumer devices were announced in January 2018. Now, Google has published additional details so developers and hardware makers can gear up to make new VR180 products.
Google’s VR180 video is based on the Spherical Video Metadata V2 standard, but there are a few additions to make it suitable for mobile VR. VR180 includes a so-called Camera Motion Metadata Track, allowing you to stabilize video according to the camera’s motion after capture. That makes the final VR video easier to watch. VR180 videos can also work in both VR and 2D environments, and the perspective won’t be completely off in 2D. Photos are based on the VR Photo Format, which keeps the left eye’s image as a panoramic JPEG. The right eye and audio data are stored as metadata.
Google worked with select partners on VR180 previously, but now it’s opening up to anyone with even a passing interest. If the standard has any hope of surviving, it needs to be available widely. This is actually just the first step, which covers interacting with VR180 content. You can see the details on Google’s GitHub page covers how to identify and process the metadata in VR180 videos and photos.
Importantly, Google says it plans to release tools in the coming months to create properly formatted VR180 videos and play them back. You can think of the release today as a sort of introduction for developers and hardware makers. Whenever the full release happens, we may start to see more VR devices and software hit the market for mobile devices. Google’s own YouTube and Photos products will work seamlessly with VR180 video.
Before any products come into being from Google’s release of VR180 details, there will be a handful of new products on the market. The previously announced Yi and Lenovo VR180 cameras are expected to launch in the next month or two. The Lenovo Mirage camera (pictured at top) will show up in early May, just in time for Google I/O (that’s probably when we’ll get more details). It’ll cost $300. The Yi Horizon camera will be out sometime after that, but we don’t know the price yet.
VR180: Can It Jumpstart VR, or Is It Just the Next 3D TV?
Despite billions in investment, VR has been slow to take off in the consumer marketplace once you get past hardcore gaming. Google, Lenovo, and others are trying another approach by encouraging the creation of 180-degree content as a simpler alternative.