Virtual Reality videos got a big boost last week. YouTube updated its app to support virtual reality videos which can be viewed with Google Cardboard headsets. And The New York Times announced it will be sending these headsets for free to all subscribers for its just launched virtual reality app.
Virtual Reality videos are pitched as being so immersive that watching them feels like actually being there. "Using the same tricks that we humans use to see the world, VR video gives you a sense of depth as you look around in every direction," YouTube explained on its blog. "Near things look near, far things look far".
In India, headset availability might prove to be a bit of a problem, though online sites like Amazon offer Do it Yourself kits for Google Cardboard and there are several locally made alternatives too, like the one in this video.
These headsets are not very expensive either. Google Cardboard, as its name suggests, is made of cardboard – and plastic lenses, with velcro to hold your phone in place.
To use these, you have to select the Cardboard option from the dropdown menu within YouTube videos. There is a playlist of some of these videos here.
YouTube's virtual reality experience is not limited to the videos optimised for 360 degree viewing. The app reportedly allows you to experience any video in this form. The quality might not be the same, but it allows people to interact with YouTube in a whole new way.
While the technology sounds right out of a sci-fi novel, the content hasn't been too riveting so far. The experience has been described as dizzying by many, especially those playing video games with the headsets on.
But tech companies seem to be betting on these videos as the next big thing. There already are many players in the market, and others like Sony, Microsoft and Facebook are joining. Facebook will launch its virtual reality headsets, named Oculus Rift, early next year and they are being positioned as the first that won't give users motion sickness.
Considering there are many people who don't like 3D films, the advances this technology will make remains to be seen. It could be great for educational purposes and space and underwater videos certainly seem to offer tremendous possibilities.
The video below offers an experience of the Apollo 11 mission that took man to the Moon. Experienced in 3D, it offers you a landing on the Moon's surface and a view of the Earth. Best enjoyed with a headset, but if you don't have one, check it out in high resolution.