Speaking from the YouTube Beach at Cannes Lions 2016, YouTube’s Head of Content Partnerships, Aaron Luber, explains why the platform is a leader in the world of Virtual Reality.
It’s now been just over two years since the launch of Google Cardboard. What started out as a small project undertaken by a couple of people at Google’s Cultural Institute in France, has become the beachhead of VR’s invasion into the mainstream, with more than 5 million Cardboards now distributed around the world.
And while Cardboard brought instant scale to the technology side of the VR equation, YouTube has been doing the same for VR content. Starting with the launch of 360 Video in March 2015, YouTube embarked on a rapid series of innovation in both technology and formats, most recently launching 360 Live Video, and 360 TrueView for advertisers. With the recent release of Cardboard for iOS, watch-times have increased four-fold, expanding the global availability of VR even further.
"We’ve got great devices, but at the end of the day, nobody buys devices, they buy experiences - so we care very, very much about creating great content for these platforms."
A new platform is only as good as its content, and as Aaron reminded the audience, ‘people buy experiences, not devices’. With that in mind, Google has invested heavily in Jump, which combines camera technology, cloud-based image stitching, and distribution on YouTube, all in one uniform specification. Vastly simplifying what used to be a process with many moving parts, Jump promises to democratise the creation of VR content, opening up the medium to a whole new audience of film-makers. Already, hardware partners like GoPro have started working with Jump, producing camera rigs that will work seamlessly with the new standard.
YouTube has also been driving the growth of VR content through partnerships, working with Buzzfeed, the New York Times, and the NBA to bring 360 video to popular categories like news and sport. Jump cameras have also been installed in YouTube Spaces around the world, in cities such as London, Los Angeles and Sao Paolo, allowing YouTube’s most innovative creators to collaborate and get to grips with the new technology.
Most recently, at Google I/O in May 2016, the future of mobile VR was announced. Building on the model established by Cardboard, Daydream takes things further, with more comfortable headsets designed for long-form viewing, and an intuitive handheld controller to deepen interaction. The YouTube UI is being completely rethought for this new medium, bringing 360 and VR content to the forefront, and making full use of Daydream’s enhanced feature-set.
With its scale in technology and content distribution, partnerships with great storytellers and film-makers, and the innovations of Jump and Daydream, YouTube has kept hold of its headstart, and is a clear leader in Virtual Reality. But in closing, Aaron reminded the audience that first doesn’t mean finished - there’s definitely a whole lot more to come from YouTube VR.