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YouTube to add 360-degree videos

Google's massive video site is gaining support for uploads that may make you feel like the planet's biggest video site has you surrounded -- literally.

Videos shot with 360-degree cameras capture the entire point-of-view around the shooter at once. Joshua Goldman/CNET

If you already feel like YouTube -- the most-watched video site on the planet -- is all around you, then 360-degree videos might make the sensation literal.

The Google-owned video site plans to add the ability to upload 360-degree videos, clips shot with special cameras like Ricoh's Theta and the Kodak Pixpro SP360 that capture everything around the shooter.

Currently, 360-degree videos are most used for their cool factor -- a new, neat way to document action video like skateboarding, for example. However, the videos could take on more profound applications with virtual reality closing in on the consumer market through efforts like Google's Cardboard and Oculus, which Facebook bought last year for $2 billion. With a VR headset, a 360-video puts you in the center of the shooter's world.

At the launch of the feature, viewers will be able to see different angles while the video plays by watching on the existing YouTube app for Android and moving the phone or tablet around. The same effect is possible on youtube.com or embedded videos by using the mouse to drag the point of view around. YouTube said it's working to get the feature ready for iPhone, iPad and other devices soon.

The company said compatible cameras include Bublcam, Giroptic's 360cam, IC Real Tech's Allie, Kodak's SP360 and Ricoh's Theta. It also provided technical information on the format along with a script to insert correct metadata in uploaders' video files. And YouTUbe will also host a technology showcase through April at its YouTube Space in Los Angeles to let uploaders' try out cameras and learn techniques.

Update 11:20 a.m. PT: To reflect that 360-degree video support is coming soon rather than already live.