YouTube launches virtual reality app, and VR’s march to the mainstream begins

google-daydream-vrYouTube has rolled out an app for watching its videos in virtual reality. All the videos on the platform allow the viewer to see the action as if they were physically present on the scene. “Every single video on the platform becomes an immersive VR experience, from 360-degree videos that let you step inside the content to standard videos shown on a virtual movie screen in the new theater mode,” YouTube said in a blog post announcing the product.

The program will only work on the Daydream View device and Pixel phone, so it’s still firmly entrenched in the Google tech ecosystem. And all of this is new Google tech, so only some early adopters and tech reporters will likely get to experience it right away. But this news is still interesting as a forecast for what digital entertainment might look like in ten years.

Virtual reality is still a new and mostly buzzy concept for the average consumer. It’s mostly been making inroads in video games, but the technology does have potential applications in other entertainment. Think about how many YouTube videos are educational, say a demo of how to make chocolate chip cookies. Or consider how many top YouTube talents have succeeded by building personal relationships with their fan bases. If the biggest supporters of PewDiePie or Michelle Phan could feel like the screen that has always separated them from their favorite celebrities simply melted away, watching those videos would be more like hanging out at a friend’s apartment. And for music specifically, what if you could pay a reduced ticket price to experience a world tour in virtual reality?

There’s still a long way to go before virtual reality becomes mainstream, but the odds are good that it will indeed get there. Entertainment companies would be wise to keep tabs on VR even at this early stage in order to start preparing now for how they could most creatively incorporate the technology down the road.

Anna Washenko