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YouTube Introduces Live 360 Video
By: The Verge
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Like any Bay Area resident with a pulse, Neal Mohan is a big fan of the Golden State Warriors, but as a busy Google executive, he can’t make every home game in person. "That courtside seat is limited by the laws of physics," says Mohan ruefully. Luckily, he won’t be bound by those rules for very long. This morning, in front of the biggest players in broadcast media, Mohan took the wraps of YouTube’s newest feature: live-streaming, 360-degree video. "Now anyone, with just their phone, can have that front row experience without having to be there."

Mohan’s announcement arrives just one week after Facebook unveiled its plans for expanding live-streaming and its own design for a 360-degree camera, although it can't yet support the combination of live and 360. The two biggest players in online video are racing toward the same goal: completely immersive entertainment that transports the viewer to another world. But they are taking strikingly different paths to get there.

For YouTube, Live 360 content is the gateway drug between what most people watch today and the immersive era of virtual reality that is just getting underway. "As a user, you don’t need to do anything," says Mohan. Open the YouTube app on your mobile device or launch it on the web and you’re ready to go. "There is no fancy technology to purchase or integrate." That’s a not so subtle jab at Facebook’s Oculus Rift, which offers cutting edge virtual reality, but retails for $599, not counting the $1,000 gaming PC that powers it.

Consumption is one side of the puzzle, creation is the other. At launch, YouTube’s Live 360 product will work with cameras that cost as little as $350, far less than the $17,000 it would cost to build the open-source hardware Facebook showed off at F8. YouTube is also releasing an API so any hardware maker can integrate Live 360 into their product. And it’s deploying 360 cameras to its YouTube spaces so creators can start playing with this new feature.

Mohan believes it will soon be possible for consumers to get in on the game. "Right now it’s specialized hardware," he explains. "But you know how these things work from a technology curve standpoint. We think we need to have a handful of flagship experiences and then as hardware tech takes off, it will spread out more broadly."

Mohan, who spent eight years working on Google’s advertising products, was recently tapped as one of CEO Sundar Pichai’s top lieutenants, promoted to senior vice president, and given the role of chief product officer at YouTube. Listening to him talk about the possibilities for Live 360, it’s clear his new role is exciting in a way programmatic ad auctions might not have been anymore. There was the experience of walking through a faraway jungle, and the one where he sat inside a fireworks display. The Verge will be premiering the first 360 live stream on YouTube this Wednesday with Dawn Richard. "Those are the kinds of magical experiences this technology is going to be able to create," he says with a beaming smile. "Without having to spend money on some fancy headset."

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This article was published on The Verge. A link to the original article can be found after the post.
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