The new video format can be viewed using the Google Cardboard device

YouTube introduces virtual reality videos

Android phones will now be able to view YouTube videos in virtual reality, Google announced last night.

After an update to the app for the popular video site, users can access VR videos, a format that gives viewers a 360-degree perspective of filmed content.

To access the new feature, a user would call up a VR video on the YouTube app, click a button on the video for VR mode and place their phone in a Google Cardboard enclosure (pictured above).

The Cardboard device is held up to the user’s eyes and contains lenses that create a 3D effect. The phone tracks head movements so that the angle of the video correlates with the direction in which the user is facing.

Makers of content in the correct format can now upload videos that are compatible with the Cardboard viewer directly to the site. YouTube said there are about a dozen VR videos, including one stemming from the "Hunger Games" movies.

In addition, the company said a more limited version of the virtual reality experience will be available for its full content library in which the videos will resemble what a viewer would see on an IMAX theatre screen.

Neil Schneider, executive director of VR trade organisation Immersive Technology Alliance, noted that YouTube introduced 3D video in 2009 and was also an early adopter of high-definition video.

"It's not surprising they would take the angle of adding virtual reality," he said.

Schneider believes that although the format will take off with professional content creators, amateur content will take longer to come to the site due to the high cost of the technology needed to create VR content.

In the summer, former smartphone maker Nokia launched the first commercially available virtual reality camera for creating content in this format.

Jay Iorio, a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, who has created films for Cardboard and Facebook's Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, took a brighter outlook and thinks the technology will become more widely available in a short space of time.

"The equipment I have right now, people will probably have on their phones in a couple years," he said.

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