Alexis Macklin is an Analyst with Greenlight Insights covering emerging technology trends at the intersection of VR, AR, and the entertainment industry. Follow her: @Alexis_Macklin.

There has been a consistent debate of what is VR. The newest feature to YouTube is a stretch, but that may be a good thing.

YouTube recently announced VR180, an 180-degree stereoscopic video format. YouTube imagines VR180 as a stepping stone from traditional video to the interactive 360-degree and VR videos. VR180-supported cameras will come this winter from LG, Lenovo, and Yi, a Chinese GoPro competitor.

YouTube released a VR app for Google Daydream and has seemed to fully support VR. Last month, the company announced a social VR feature where users could interact while watching videos. YouTube has seemed to invest more in immersive content, so why would it backtrack and release a specific 180-degree video feature? VR180 is meant to expand the field of view for users. This is intended to be more natural than full 360-degree video. Users can watch the VR180 with only slightly moving their phone. Users in a headset won't even need to move their head. The 180-degree video is meant to be an extension of the traditional video.

Image by YouTube


VR180 will be beneficial to filmmakers as well. The 180-degree video will not take as long to render than full 360-degree video. Cameras that will support the format will also only have two lenses to shoot stereoscopic 180-degree video. This will eliminate costly stitching from a full 360-degree camera.

Stitching has been a long nuisance for 360-degree filmmakers. Currently, 360-degree cameras all require stitching. This entails hours of production time spent on perfecting stitching together an array of videos, in some cases with companies hiring a specific person to just stitch video. If successful, VR180 would streamline live action video to YouTube, but the new format is risky. VR180 is a new format with new cameras, which would require filmmakers to invest again in a different camera and editing tools.

The benefits could be worth it. According to a Google blog post, 75 percent of 360-degree video users only look in front of them. The content and rendering time is wasted on more than half of the video. Users may be more responsive to VR180 as the render time would be less and it would require less of users to see the whole video.

VR180 is less immersive than 360-degree video, but that may be what the industry needs and consumers still require a lot of general education before VR hits the mainstream in 2021.