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Living in the Matrix with 360-degree video

Thanks to 360-degree video, you can have eyes in the front, sides and back of your head.

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Get ready to change your perspective on what video can be.

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Look up, down, around or side-to-side -- footage is coming at you from all angles. From the outside, 360-degree video looks deceptively simple. Set up a few cameras in a circle, make them record at the same time, then sit back and watch as the footage comes together in an immersive, all-encompassing visual experience.

Behind this simple premise lies a lot of computational smarts. Earlier this year at Google's developer conference, the search giant unveiled a system called Jump that consists of an assembler and a specially designed rig to accommodate 16 GoPro cameras. The assembler automatically stitches together all of this footage into stereoscopic video for VR headsets such as Google's own Cardboard.

Jump is just one of the many ways 360-degree video is crossing over into the mainstream. YouTube has a channel dedicated to showcasing 360-degree videos from professional publishers, but everyday users like you and I can make these videos right now by buying a relatively inexpensive camera such as the Ricoh Theta.

The potential for changing the way directors and scriptwriters tell stories is just one of the many exciting applications for 360-degree video. Imagine having one storyline play out when you are looking straight ahead, but another narrative plays out right behind you.

It's time to get excited. 360-degree video is right here, right now.

(Video credit: GoPro Spherical, Qantas)