360 videos are gaining ground on the mainstream, with releases such as the music video of the new track “Saturnz Barz” by virtual band Gorillaz garnering nearly 4 million views in just 2 days.
If you’re more used to watching “traditional” videos, there might be some confusion on how you can jump into 360 quickly and easily, other than simply using your mouse to click-and-hold on the 360 video to pan around. Try it out below now:
Once you start the video, you will notice a 4-direction pad icon on the top left of the video – this resets your view to the default direction. Other than that button, you can simply left click anywhere within the video, hold the button, and move the mouse in any direction, to look around. This is the most basic way to access 360 on most any browser or device.
It’s cumbersome and doesn’t give the full experience though, so here are a few more methods:
1.) Through regular Google “Cardboard” devices consisting of cardboard panels inset with dual fresnel lens and some form of retainer for a smartphone. This, combined with a smartphone’s gyroscopic sensor, detects the movement of your head as you “look around” a 360 video, making it a more immersive experience than clicking a mouse to pan within the video.
2.) Through Cardboard knock-offs (sort of). These devices are counter intuitively more durable than your cardboard-based Cardboard, but they’re not sourced from Google and may not adhere to required specifications like lens distance, type of lens, the size of the phone holder, and some such. Still, these will suffice for most mobile VR applications, including 360 video. See an example below from our previous review.
Use Youtube’s “Cardboard mode” in the above 2 options – it’s the icon near the video quality selector icon that looks like this:
3.) Google Daydream devices – Google released a more polished, more expensive version of their Cardboard device in the form of Daydream – a set of specifications for compatible smartphones combined with a Google developed headset. There’s a (short) list of compatible smartphones, and the headset itself can be ordered online.
4.) Through Samsung’s Gear VR device, which is essentially also Cardboard-based, although with refinements such as Samsung’s Internet Gear VR app, a trackpad, and better build quality. Similar to Daydream and Cardboard in 360 video viewing.
5.) Through high-end PC-based devices such as the Vive or Rift. These devices are much better for heavy gaming and elaborate applications, but they can be made to work with 360 video if used with the Virtual Desktop application. A bit of an overkill, but since Virtual Desktop enables the use of your regular desktop, along with most of the usage scenarios that entails – all in VR, watching a 360 video is a good fit.
There are a few concepts and renders that explore other methods like eschewing the strap-on devices mentioned above and projecting directly into the air, using gestures to navigate, and others like integrating viewable screens through a contact-like membrane in the eyes, but these are still fanciful and a bit far off in the future – though it would be nice to imagine actually being “inside” a 360 video. Perhaps we’ll start calling it 360.1 videos soon thereafter.