YouTube to live-stream 360-degree videos, starting with Coachella fest

The video giant wants to make live virtual-reality clips a thing, starting with the popular California music festival.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read
© Daniel DeSlover/ZUMA Press/Corbis

The tech world is obsessed with two things right now: virtual reality and live video. So why not combine them?

That's what YouTube is doing. The Google-owned video behemoth said Monday that it's launching live streaming for so-called 360 videos, which let you look up, down and all round a scene.

To kick things off, the site will live-stream a few performances from the Coachella music festival in Indio, California, this weekend. You can imagine the other possibilities: basketball games, conferences and maybe even a human birth?

You'll be able to watch the videos on a tablet, desktop computer or phone -- either Apple's iPhones or phones powered by Google's Android mobile software. To get the full-on VR effect though, you'll need to watch through a virtual-reality headset, like Google's dirt-cheap Cardboard goggles. Cardboard is made of, you guessed it, cardboard, which users fold into a headset to hold a phone running the video.

Virtual reality has been huge for Silicon Valley. Everyone from Google to Facebook to Samsung has invested heavily in the technology. Facebook released its Oculus Rift in March, after buying the VR company two years ago for $2 billion. Google has made every single YouTube video compatible with Cardboard. (The company says videos that weren't shot with VR in mind will look like you're watching them in a personal Imax theater.)

At the same time, tech companies have gone all-in on live streaming. Earlier this month, Facebook released new features, including Instagram-like filters, for its Facebook Live service, which lets people broadcast a live video on the social network from a phone. Twitter has a rival service called Periscope. YouTube is rumored to be prepping its own service, called YouTube Connect.

To let people live-stream 360 videos, YouTube has partnered with VR camera makers including IC Real Tech, which makes the $500 ALLie Home camera, and VR software firms like Vahana VR, which makes a program designed to help stitch together a virtual-reality scene. Content is expected to come from companies and others looking to publicize their activities or broaden their audience.

Separately, YouTube said it's making the audio for nonlive videos on the YouTube Android app more realistic. When you're wearing headphones, if, say, a video features an explosion far off in the distance, a filmmaker can make it sound fainter than if something is blowing up right in front of you.