The YouTube VR application just released some social viewing features as well as finally released a version for Gear VR, although there isn’t any specific updates on if or when there will be an Oculus Go or Oculus Rift version released. When I asked Google about this, a YouTube spokesperson said, “We want everyone with a VR headset to be able to experience YouTube VR, and we’re working to bring it to more VR platforms in the future.” I take this to mean that Google is trying to get a native application of YouTube VR released for the Oculus Go & Oculus Right, but that there must be some sort of lower-level technicial or logistical issue or more likely some sort of competitive or political blocker that’s been either been slowing it down or outright preventing it. But having a Samsung VR application is a step in the right direction.
I had a chance to catch up with the YouTube VR product lead Erin Teague and Google VR/AR Business Development & Content team member Julia Hamilton Trost at Sundance 2018 where they were talking about some of their latest content initatives, VR180 camera, YI HALO VR camera, livestreaming different events in VR, how YouTube vloggers are experimenting and pioneering new immersive genres that are emerging on the YouTube platform.
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[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. So at Sundance this year, I had a chance to talk to a couple of representatives from Google about YouTube VR, some of their content initiatives, as well as new hardware that they've done over the last year. And just today, on July 25, 2018, there's been an announcement that YouTube VR is finally coming to the Samsung Gear VR. Now, this has been an application that's been conspicuously absent from the Gear VR ecosystem, and we still don't know any word in terms of whether or not the YouTube VR is going to ever be released on the Oculus Home for the Oculus Rift, as well as for the Oculus Go. I reached out to YouTube to ask, like, hey, what's going on here? And a spokesperson replied saying, we want everyone with a VR headset to be able to experience YouTube VR, and we're working to bring it to more VR platforms in the future. which I take to mean that they actually want it to be on Oculus Home and Oculus Go, but if anything, there's some sort of either political issues with Facebook or Oculus where I suspect that perhaps Facebook and Oculus wants to own their own video platforms and they don't wanna have one of their biggest competitors have their native application on their standalone headsets and take away a lot of the ad revenue that they would be cultivating. I think there's just some either political or logistical things that haven't been worked out yet, If anything, Google is saying that they're working on it and they want it, but they're not explicitly saying what's exactly going on. One of the other features that I just wanted to highlight of this YouTube VR application that was announced at Google I O back in the spring, but I think is being deployed now is the ability to watch 360 videos with your friends. And so being able to actually do the social sharing of 360 videos. But I had a chance to just sit down with Erin Teague. She's the lead product for YouTube VR, as well as Julie Hamilton-Trost. She's with Google VR business development and the content team, just to go over some of the latest hardware and software and different initiatives they have there at YouTube VR. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Erin and Julia happened on Friday, January 19, 2018, at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:02:23.484] Julia Hamilton Hamilton: Hi, Julia Hamilton Trost. I'm on the Google VR AR BD content team.
[00:02:29.650] Trost Teague: My name is Erin Teague, and I lead product for YouTube VR.
[00:02:33.975] Kent Bye: Great. So maybe you could talk a bit about some of the recent announcements that were coming out, I know, at CES, and then what we're showing here at Sundance.
[00:02:42.482] Julia Hamilton Hamilton: So CES was exciting. We announced the VR180 cameras that are coming out later this year with Lenovo and with Yi. And Aaron and VR team at YouTube announced the platform VR180 back in June of 2017. So the cameras are the next step. How do we get more cameras in the hands of creators? How do we make it easier to capture? for both consumers and for prosumers and professional camera creators. So, that was exciting. That was all last week at CES, and we're excited as the cameras come out to get more content, VR180 content, and grow the corpus on YouTube.
[00:03:15.428] Kent Bye: Yeah, and what's happening here at Sundance for you?
[00:03:18.090] Trost Teague: So at Sundance, a couple things. Actually, Julia, there's probably more that you want to talk about in terms of the content that we're announcing here at Sundance?
[00:03:24.795] Julia Hamilton Hamilton: Yeah, so Sundance, we're really excited because we feel like it's a really good moment to talk to filmmakers and creators and let them know what we've been up to, and also show it to anyone who's coming through Sundance, whether it's consumers or people who are newer to VR. And we've been really excited about Isle of Dogs behind the scenes and virtual reality. And that was a collaboration between the Fox team with Wes Anderson and his film coming, Isle of Dogs, in March. And then Felix and Paul did the production work. in partnership with Google Spotlight Stories. Pixel is going to have it exclusively with Pixel and Daydream, and then it'll come to YouTube in March. And then the film will launch on March 23rd. So we're really excited about that. If you watch the piece, you really understand why it needs to be in VR. You've got the characters and stop motion animation in front of you, and voiced by Bryan Cranston and Bill Murray. And then behind you, Felix and Paul did an incredible job showing what's going on behind the scenes to make the animation work. And you've got Wes Anderson off to the side doing mo-cap. And it really, the attention to detail, the production quality, all of that comes through in the experience. And it's showing over at New Frontier as well. So we're pumped to have that here. We're also showing Step Up, High Water, the VR edition. And that's to time with the series that's coming out on YouTube Red. And again, this wasn't just to have a marketing piece for the show. This was more, how could we reimagine one of the dance scenes from the pilot and transform it for VR? So we took the choreographer, Mark Cudsey's the director, he paired with Jaunt to really come up with the idea. And so they worked with the choreographer and the talent to figure out, OK, how can we really make this for VR? And let's take the camera, the Yee-Halo jump camera, that films in 3D 360 and make it about movement. So, so many dance scenes have been done in VR where you just stick a camera and you have dancers dancing around. We wanted to do something where you actually feel like you're a part of it, but make sure it's comfortable in VR. So mounting the halo on a spider cam really could get that effect of motion and that's what you felt when you went through it. So you're dancing alongside and then shifting of time and perspective when you have the freeze moment. And you can, as the viewer, kind of catch up and take a look at the scene and then you move again through it. And then finally in VR180, we're showing a couple pieces more of the snackable content to really get across the format. And one is with Portugal, the man. Just get it behind the scenes but also inside their head before they go on stage. And then this cool piece from Arcturus called Strangest Hotels. We're walking through a treehouse hotel and it's hosted by a YouTuber, Greg Benson.
[00:06:00.559] Trost Teague: Yeah, and maybe Aaron you could tell me a bit about you know What type of stuff that you've been looking at and considerations for YouTube and stuff that you've been working on sure So I think one of the bigger themes that you'll notice here at Sundance for us is that it's all about reducing friction We think we're doing that in two ways. So the first is obviously the introduction of VR 180 So we announced the cameras. We announced the format about six months ago at VidCon the cameras at CES and And, you know, people ask us about, like, why VR180 versus the investment in 360? And the reality is that for YouTube, it's about choice for creators, right? And so with this brand-new format, VR180, with these brand-new cameras, we think that it makes VR more accessible for everyone, for both YouTube creators, for traditional 2D rectangular creators. And our goal is to get everyone and to make sure that everyone feels like they have an opportunity to create VR content. and to leverage this new medium and this new format and this new space and so we're very very very excited about VR180 and we think that this is a big moment to showcase and demonstrate to everyone, the creators here at Sundance, the power of VR as a new medium and the importance of storytelling through VR 180 and so I think that's the first thing. The second thing from a YouTube perspective is we launched a brand new platform through SteamVR we announced on the HTC Vive via Early Access and so we're making YouTube available to everyone everywhere and every meaningful headset and so I think for us the storyline is consistent and it's around reducing friction right so YouTube VR is now on more platforms so more viewers can watch the amazing content that creators here are creating. They upload once to YouTube, and their content is on multiple platforms. And then with VR180, it's about making cameras accessible. It's about making storytelling through VR more accessible for more creators.
[00:07:49.902] Kent Bye: Yeah, I noticed that there's a trade-off in the 180 where you have less field of view, but yet you have more stereoscopy. You're able to get more 3D effects, and so I can imagine that if you have a 360 view of something, you may have a better sense of place, of seeing like a full architecture of a place, but that it seems like maybe most of the time the action is going to be right in front of you, and that maybe you want to trade-off of that sense of place to have a deeper immersion when it comes to the 3D depth. Maybe you could talk a bit about those trade-offs and how you see people kind of really playing to the unique affordances of that 180.
[00:08:22.899] Trost Teague: Yeah, sure. I think that what you'll see is creators will leverage the medium in a way that makes the most sense for the story that they're trying to tell. And so with VR180, it is about the stereoscopic effect. You're literally getting double the pixel density by concentrating the view literally to what's right in front of you. And we think that's really powerful. The other thing about VR180 is you can live stream in 3D. And that's really incredible for creators. And we think that there's going to be a unique place for that in the world. But at the same time, 360 3D will continue to be incredible in terms of providing an experience where you achieve presence. And I think 360 3D, if I were to think about how creators are making a decision around when to use which, I think 360 3D is really around where the story is focused on the environment. where you really need to kind of feel like you are there in a space and the space matters, right? So you can't tell a story around skydiving if you can't look around you and see the full sky and get a sense for the sky versus the ground and you see the plane and you see your parachute. And there's like a really compelling component there that matters, right? Where the environment and the place matters. For VR 180, I think, You know, you want to think about, like if I think about YouTube creators, it's vloggers, it's makeup tutorial artists, it's people who are focused on sort of a fixed environment, right? Maybe they're not, they're moving around less. But you're focused on what's right in front of you, and you're focused on kind of this one-to-one personal interaction, and that's what matters most. And so it's kind of this environment versus human-to-human interaction component.
[00:10:08.550] Julia Hamilton Hamilton: I think we've seen sports, VR180 for sports has also been more effective. Just looking at, we're looking at the Yi Halo camera, it's an incredible piece of equipment with jump and it's professional grade and cinematic, but taking that to a sports field, that's harder. And so VR180, when you need To be freer to move around, you need to be able to deal with athletes coming at the camera. VR180 is ideal for that. It's a much smaller camera size, a much smaller footprint. So we've seen some success there too, especially with live streaming, if you think about live streaming sports. So sports has been great. And then some of the content we have here, it's a snackable, like Aaron was saying, a snackable, maybe 90 seconds. VR180 is really well suited for that if you want to give the camera to a band and have them take it with them backstage to kind of show you what's going on. So I think we'll see even more and potentially new formats emerge, like YouTube. A lot of new formats emerged when YouTube was first created. And we hope that VR180 will introduce some new formats that are really native to VR. And we're looking for those throughout 2018.
[00:11:10.167] Kent Bye: Yeah, also, I imagine that if you're doing a 180 livestream, that if people don't have VR, they could still have a very similar experience than somebody who has VR. I mean, there may be some slight variation in terms of the field of view, and obviously they don't get the stereoscopic effects, but for people who don't have the headsets, they may be able to still kind of have an experience and participate in the event, even if they don't have VR.
[00:11:33.640] Trost Teague: That's exactly right. So one of the core benefits of VR180 is that it looks great on flat surfaces, so it looks great on your desktop browser, it looks great on your mobile phone, but it also looks amazing inside of VR. And so what happens is it looks like a regular YouTube video. It's cropped to fit within the rectangle on YouTube. on flat surfaces, right? So there's no need to pan around, there's no movement that's required. But then you take your phone, right, if you're watching on a regular YouTube mobile app, you plop it in to your Daydream headset, and you put that headset on, and you're immediately immersed in 180 degrees, and you feel like you're there, right? And so for people who are watching their content on flat surfaces, it looks great. And then for people who are watching it in VR, they're achieving the presence that they're hoping to achieve. we think we're kind of getting at both areas. And I think from the creative perspective, that matters because they don't have to choose, right? So if their audience is accustomed to consuming their content on flat surfaces, then it looks great there. But then they're also, and by shooting in VR180, they're also getting the additional benefit of having their content look great inside of VR and potentially reaching a brand new audience. And so we think that's a really compelling point as it relates to VR180.
[00:12:48.829] Kent Bye: And what have been some of the more popular VR180 streams that you've seen kind of take off in terms of the content?
[00:12:55.593] Julia Hamilton Hamilton: Yeah, so one of them that comes to mind, Poppy is performing here at the YouTube house at Sundance tomorrow night. And her video is one of the first that came out alongside the VidCon announcement. And she just has this incredible fan base, and her fan base has loved her VR. piece that came out, and that's been one that was just super popular in terms of VR180, the proximity, feeling close to her. But to Aaron's point, you can see in the comments that if they watched on a flat surface, it was great. You're not compromising any quality. So the Poppy experience has been great. Kevin Durant coming to the YouTube Space livestream was super popular, and there were cool vignettes that were cut into different pieces. And that was getting someone, again, feeling close to Kevin Durant, who's however tall, and seeing him interact with other cool people at the YouTube space.
[00:13:42.677] Trost Teague: Yeah, the Kevin Durant piece was probably my favorite because it's sort of like you take this, well, one, I'm a little biased because I'm a huge sports fan, but you take this amazing, arguably one of the best players in the NBA today, and he's interviewed by all these YouTube creators, right? And then the video is on YouTube, it's live streamed in 3D. So just an incredible piece and kind of hits on all of the benefits of a platform like YouTube. Some other ideas that come to mind, we've streamed a couple of red carpet events at award shows that have just been incredible. I mean, how many people ever in their lives get a chance to walk the red carpet or to interview celebrities on a red carpet, right? It's just not the kind of thing that a lot of people will be able to experience and that's the power of VR, right? You are able to experience things that are just not possible in real life for one reason or another and we think that we've nailed the accessibility piece. as it relates to bringing people closer to the celebrities that they're interested in. So we live-streamed the Teen Choice Awards last year in VR180, and that was just an incredible experience. I mean, you put the headset on, you watch this live-stream, and you literally feel like you're there. You're right there with the interviewer, with your favorite celebrity, and that's just an incredible experience. And so I think, you know, I would definitely encourage, you know, folks to check that out and to give us feedback in terms of, you know, did we hit that? I personally think we did.
[00:15:01.618] Kent Bye: Now when it comes to like the future of interactive media, the thing that I think of is like either a sports event where there's the live event and you could pick your angle of what you're looking at so you'd have the equivalent of being able to choose your view or something like immersive theater like Sleep No More where there's a hundred rooms and the story is kind of unfolding all at the same time, and you have the ability within the actual live immersive theater event to kind of roam around the rooms. And that, from a technological point of view for YouTube, would require you to be able to have parallel streams going at the same time to be able to kind of jump in between different perspectives. I'm just curious if that's something that's, you know, on your radar or on your roadmap in terms of, like, being able to give that level of interaction when it comes to stories that are unfolding in parallel and being able to actually kind of choose your own adventure in that way.
[00:15:48.332] Trost Teague: Yeah, so I think interactivity has been something that we've been thinking about for a long time. The reality, Kent, our roadmap is extremely robust. There are so many things that we want to do and it's just a matter of time and resources, but also a matter of like the technology being at a place where we can have these sort of effects play out in a way that really makes a lot of sense for users, it makes a lot of sense for creators from a storytelling perspective. I can't reveal our full roadmap to you because that just wouldn't be fair, but I'm really excited about the course of 2018. I think there are a bunch of things that we have in store that'll be awesome for viewers, that'll be awesome for creators, and that'll really sort of achieve the core value proposition of VR within YouTube.
[00:16:31.188] Kent Bye: Yeah, and with the Yi, what is sort of the new thing there in terms of that? That's also, I think, something that was recently announced in terms of that camera. What is that camera enabling that? I guess it's kind of like the version 2 or the second iteration of that technology. What's new or different with that?
[00:16:47.003] Julia Hamilton Hamilton: With the Yi Halo and the camera? Yeah, so we launched the camera towards the end of 2017 in partnership with Yi, and the idea there was let's take what we've learned from the first generation jump camera and really improve on it. So one of the things we really learned with the first generation, the Odyssey, the battery, the external battery was When you're trying to move around on a shoot or you're on location, having an external battery was tough. So let's build the battery directly into the camera and you can see that over with the camera that you've got an internal battery that lasts. We've also got an up-facing camera, so... It's not a top camera, the geometry, it's down in the camera and there's a reason for that larger field of view. But that was one of the biggest pieces of feedback from any creator that shot with the first generation jump camera, you couldn't see up and you needed that. And we took that into account, we worked with a lot of great creators and we now have 17 cameras in the ring with the YI HALO. That's been really exciting. And I would just say the quality. We've been improving on jump and stitching and being able to come out with the ability to edit before and choose your shots before you go and choose what to upload, which makes the edit time and all the time you're in stitching, it reduces the time. So there's been a lot of improvements there. And we're just excited to see what creators do with that camera. And again, as Aaron said, it's all about reducing friction. So we went jump to take 3D 360, and continue to make that easier and shoot stereoscopic. It's not easy. And then VR180 is another choice to make it really simple to capture and then directly upload to YouTube. So giving creators a choice. And we see with a lot of the pieces here, there is a reason, I think, that Step Up was shot with the YIHOLO. I think that made a lot of sense to be in 360. And then some of these other pieces with Portugal and the Man, I think that was perfect for VR180. Snackable content. choosing the right format, but we're really excited about the YI Halo. And YI is a great partner. They're a partner on the BR-180 camera, and they're a partner on the 3D 360 jump camera.
[00:18:48.351] Kent Bye: Yeah, I'm also curious about the content that sort of stands out to you and also that there's these YouTube personalities that they are sort of getting into these different flow states of their expression and they're really authentic and in the moment but also some of them, you know, I know that you've mentioned like doing guided tours of people's closets and be able to kind of almost take people on these as a docent kind of showing people around a specific space and so I I think of going to a museum and getting the story behind a place. And that's something that I feel like YouTube is going to be a strength of, of having people explain the deeper stories of locations with this technology. But I'm just curious to hear other content that you've seen over the last couple of years that really stands out that you think is unique to the YouTube platform.
[00:19:32.884] Trost Teague: Sure, I mean, YouTube for a long time has just shined from a UGC perspective. I mean, I think creators do things on YouTube and upload content to YouTube that you literally can't see anywhere else in the world. And that is what makes YouTube shine, right? It's the original sort of UGC place. for creators to connect with their fans and for creators to just really have this outlet to show off the amazing things that they're doing. And so I think that will continue to be true as it relates to VR. And one of the reasons that we launched VR180 at VidCon last year is because we were really excited to get this format into the hands of creators, because we knew that no matter what we did at YouTube HQ, we couldn't imagine or begin to even imagine all of the different ways that creators could take this brand new format and leverage it in ways that we don't believe that we're capable of even imagining. And so, as soon as the technology was ready, we announced it at VidCon, we made the format available on YouTube, And even though the cameras weren't exactly at a place where they're ready, they're consumer available, we still felt like it was important. And so that's why we were loaning prototype cameras out of the YouTube spaces. And creators have already done things with VR180 that has just blown our minds. And so we think it's just the beginning. The cameras will be on shelves very soon. And we obviously announced them at CES. And when that happens, I can't even begin to start putting creators inside of a box. I think, you know, in an ideal world they'll just take the cameras and do the amazing things that they've always done and take YouTube to a brand new level.
[00:21:05.818] Julia Hamilton Hamilton: Yeah, yeah. I mean, you mentioned supermodel closets, but that I think was a great partnership. That was Vogue bringing in supermodels like Kendall Jenner. Kendall Jenner has a major fan base, and it was going inside her closet, Cyndi Crawford's closet, Amber Villareal's closet. And there was a reason, again, for that to be in 360, and that those all were successful in terms of just viewership. And if you look in the comments, people were really excited to be able to have that access, like you said. And then I think this came out a while back, but Gorillaz partnered with Spotlight Stories, and they came out with their music video for Saturn Bars. It came out with a 2D version, and then they came out with a version specifically built for 360 with the Google Spotlight Stories. And that ended up, I think, having the largest 360 music video debut of all time on YouTube. And again, it's activating that fan base. Gorillaz hadn't come out with an album in a while, so people were really excited. And they were excited to watch the 2D version of the music video, and they were really excited to watch the 360 version. So that was a high-quality piece. Again, animation does really well on YouTube. So those are two pieces, I think, that stick out over the last year.
[00:22:09.780] Trost Teague: One thing I'm really excited to see and this is like my personal interest in VR. VR is a technology, it's the only technology in the world that literally allows you to walk in someone else's shoes. And I think that's immensely powerful in terms of creating empathy and compassion for other people and that's literally one of the primary reasons that I work in this space. And that's something that I'm excited to see creators begin to take advantage of in terms of just kind of making the world a better place, right? And I think VR180 is a primary format in terms of achieving that because this camera is, I mean, you hold it in your hand, right? It's tiny and you can live stream from this camera and you achieve that effect of feeling like you're there because everything's in 3D. And so now if I can have the experience of what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes or to kind of be someone else for some short period of time, then it gives me insight into the way that they experience the world that I think is just brilliant and really powerful. And I think in terms of achieving empathy and compassion, there's no better technology in the world that can do that for us.
[00:23:16.131] Kent Bye: So what do you each want to experience in VR?
[00:23:19.445] Trost Teague: That's it for me. I kind of beat you to the punch there, Kent. That is literally what I want to experience in VR. I want to see the world become a better place as a result of kind of being able to experience life through someone else's eyes. You know, if I walk into a room, and people respond to me in a certain way, I want other people to have that experience to know what it's like to be me for a day, or I want to have the experience to kind of know what it's like to be someone else. And if I think about kind of the state of the world today, you know, you think about some of these sad instances of police brutality and racial profiling, these are things that I think can be solved. And I think VR could be a mechanism to do that, right? If every police officer is trained and kind of understands what it's like to be racially profiled, Imagine how far that goes in terms of police officers approaching their work in a brand new way, particularly in urban areas. I think that's immensely compelling. And so that's something I would want to see in VR. The other thing I'm really passionate about is VR through education in terms of closing the access and experiential divide. If I could travel the world through VR by sitting in my classroom, If I can learn geography through VR, for example, if I can learn history through VR, I think that makes the educational experience that much more rich. So these are two of the many reasons that I work in the space, and that's what I want to experience in VR.
[00:24:36.900] Julia Hamilton Hamilton: What I want to see happen is for us to burst the bubble in VR a little bit and to really make sure that we're getting new people into VR. And VR180, I think, is going to help with that. So if we can get a camera that's affordable out there for people who are not early tech adopters to be able to shoot their family events, and easily upload that to YouTube and then potentially say, you know what, I should get a headset so that grandma who couldn't come to the birthday party, let's get her a headset, make it easier for her to watch VR. make it more accessible, and then actually get more people into this medium. Because we're still early stages, and we're still seeing a lot of views coming in on flat, and on phone, and on computers. That's great. But we want to get more people into headsets. So how do we do that? How do we make it just more accessible? And let's burst the bubble, and I think VR180 will take a step towards that. So I want to see that happen in 2018.
[00:25:25.278] Kent Bye: OK, great. And finally, what do you each think is kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality, and what it might be able to enable?
[00:25:34.224] Julia Hamilton Hamilton: I mean, I think we touched on it a little bit, is that the ability to be transported to another place and for the quality to be good enough. We were saying, wow, I want to put this on, and I'm going to get into VR, and it's going to be a better experience than what I just experienced in my regular. Because we're competing with just someone wanting to come home at the end of the day and watch Netflix and relax. We want them to be able to take VR and make it easy and frictionless, and be able to get into VR to put themselves in someone else's shoes. So the ultimate potential is to get VR into the level of you really want to do it, and you want to do it in a way that you're excited to get into VR. You don't have to go through a ton of steps. It's more frictionless. And there's so much potential there. We're just such early days. So I think improving the technology, improving the quality, all of that, that Aaron and team are working on and the Daydream team is working on. That's the potential. It's like, let's get people doing it mainstream and doing it frequently. And it's part of the larger daydream mission of immersive computing. AR and VR together, making sure those two are kind of coming together. I think we see a lot of that happening going towards the next five to 10 years. And we're excited. We're early days again, but we're really excited to be a part of it.
[00:26:44.898] Trost Teague: I think the ultimate potential of VR is that the world becomes a better place. Unfortunately, there is no way to just inject empathy into people, and I think that's a core element of making human-to-human interaction better. Empathy and compassion. And I think VR is that technology that allows you to understand someone else's life journey in a brand new way. I think we're seeing this kind of play out in a variety of ways. Google did a series called Immerse, really with the intention to inspire empathy and compassion by understanding someone else's story in a brand new way. Those videos are on YouTube and I encourage folks to check those out. But I think, you know, it's really early in terms of kind of what that experience could be. And if I could do that through a first-person narrative, then that takes the experience and magnifies it in a whole new way. And I think the ultimate potential of VR, frankly, is endless. But if I had to kind of pick a place to anchor, it would likely be making the world a better place through empathy and compassion.
[00:27:48.349] Kent Bye: Awesome. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say?
[00:27:52.775] Julia Hamilton Hamilton: Yeah, just one last thing. You made me think of this, Erin. We came up with a series called The Female Planet, and the idea was, let's take some female leaders who a lot of people don't know yet. Globally, let's figure out a way to tell a story and their story in VR. And not just a regular 2D documentary, but let's actually use the medium in VR. So we were able to get Gina Rodriguez, You're able to get Tiara Fletcher who is aerospace engineer at NASA and she's working on the largest rocket ever built and be able to walk into NASA with her and then see how she's envisioning her mathematical equations, how she's working on the rocket, what she's looking towards ultimately to get to Mars, all of that using VR to introduce Tiara to the world, pretty incredible. Gina Rodriguez is doing amazing things and a lot of people don't know her yet so I think using VR to really tell that story and get beyond just what you would get in a 2D documentary. To Aaron's point, to shed the light on some of these amazing women that a lot of people wouldn't have access to otherwise and kind of get mentorship from them via YouTube and via VR. So that is another project that I think has started to touch on that and we'll continue to build on ideas like that.
[00:28:58.110] Kent Bye: Anything else?
[00:29:00.223] Trost Teague: I think some of the work coming out of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab is incredible in terms of helping people understand what it's like to be homeless, for example. There's a VR consortium at Stanford as well that's kind of working on the ways that VR can be applied to health. particularly as it relates to addressing some of the mental illness challenges, kind of retraining the brain as it relates to addressing PTSD or schizophrenia, for example. And there's some early work being done. And some of the results are really compelling. So again, it's early days. But I think VR has the potential to change the world. And we're just getting started.
[00:29:36.222] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Julia and Aaron, thank you so much for joining me today.
[00:29:40.103] Julia Hamilton Hamilton: Thank you so much, Kent. Great to see you. Thanks for having us, Kent.
[00:29:42.750] Kent Bye: So that was Erin Teague. She's the lead product for YouTube VR, as well as Julia Hamilton-Trost. She's on the Google AR VR business development and content team. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, Overall, I think that VR is still in this kind of nebulous state where may not have necessarily super compelling content That's out there that is really driving people to be in the headset and so I think what you're seeing with either applications like VR chat or with YouTube VR is moving from the 360 degree, you know give you a full sense of the full scene but doing these 180 degree cameras and so that they're able to have this kind of transitional phase where they're able to do like these live streams with these cameras and that even if you don't have a VR headset you're still able to enjoy what you're seeing and you may have basically the same frame content that somebody who may be able to watch it in VR but it's not like you're missing out on the overall experience and I think that I see this as kind of like this transitional phase where we're still trying to get a lot of people to buy into these different VR headsets and It's hard to tell to whatever degree that Google is having success or traction or momentum with their Daydream platform. We're not seeing very many numbers about it. They weren't really necessarily pushing all that hard for Daydream or virtual reality at their Google I.O. conference that happened later in the spring. It was really kind of subdued and it was really emphasizing their AR. But I think in the longterm, they're still really committed to developing the virtual reality ecosystem. I know that they came up with some really amazing like digital light fields. There's this experience that if you haven't had a chance to try it out yet, you should really check it out. It's called the Welcome to the Light Fields Experience. It's by Google. Just some really amazing like digital light fields that shows the power of this like volumetric way of like just capturing something that has a different quality of the light. It's just really super impressive and they're showing that at VRLA, but also released earlier in the year. The other thing is this live streaming, which I think is interesting. So live streaming is going to be much more popular. I can already see more and more people starting to do the live streaming. You have things like Twitch as well as YouTube streaming where being live in the moment and being able to record whatever is happening and to be able to broadcast it out and to potentially have your direct connection with your audience and be able to engage with them directly. I think the big question is what is the 180 giving you? If you are a fashion person and you want to show somebody a closet and give them a much more kind of stereoscopic experience of whatever you're looking at, then I think that's a good use case for when you might want to use a 180 livestream rather than just any normal kind of livestream. And so I think it's still a bit of an open question as to what is going to be the kind of the killer application when it comes to the 180 degree livestreaming event. Maybe you're just like on the red carpet. So anything that you want to feel like you're actually immersed in, you're there. And so the new 180 VR camera that's out there, I think it'll be interesting to see how that develops over time. And also in this new application that is coming out, uh, that's now on the Samsung gear VR, like I was mentioning at the top of the show, there's a, I guess some, you know, kind of unknown larger political relationships between these large companies. It seems as though Google and Samsung were able to work something out, but not necessarily something between Google and Facebook. I mean, if you look at just the Facebook platform, you don't see a lot of YouTube videos that are embedded. Facebook tends to prefer their own video solution. And so if you are putting a YouTube link into a Facebook post, then I don't think it gets promoted as much as if you were to actually upload the video directly to Facebook. I think just the way that they do their algorithms has this kind of competitive thing where they're not necessarily emphasizing that you can go off to one of their competitors site to be able to watch their videos and see all the ads that are served up to you. So given that, I think that there's a little bit of an inherent conflict between Will that ever see something like Facebook and Oculus have a YouTube VR native app? I mean, it's taking this long for us to even get it onto the Samsung gear VR. So I expect that there's potentially more negotiations that are happening and it's yet to be seen as to where that ends up. Also, I would just say that overall the VR ecosystem, you have a number of different things that are happening with both the content creators, you have the distribution platforms, and then you have the audience who are watching these different programs. And so with 360 video, it's a little bit of, I guess, um, I'd say a waning phase where a lot of these major networks have done these different experiments of using 360 videos to promote existing intellectual property shows and I think they've maybe seen a little bit of a mixed results in terms of what is the true efficacy of using 360 video as a promotional medium. I think that it's going to find its niche in terms of like either guided tours or education or immersion. I think these live streaming and makeup vloggers, you know, there's going to be some things that are just going to be naturally better when it comes to being immersed into a scene. And I think that we're still trying to figure out what those genres are. And I think YouTube is this open platform where you can post whatever you want. And it's a bit of like, you're susceptible to the AdSense and ads that are there. And so What I've seen as a trend over the last couple of years is that you have a lot of creators who may be really dependent upon a lot of those ads that they're creating. And if there's any algorithmic change that Google does, then it's been referred to as the adpocalypse where suddenly all of your income is disappearing. And so what I've seen is that a lot of these larger content creators are moving to platforms like Patreon or crown funding or cultivating a direct financial relationship with their audience to be able to continue to produce the content independent of the algorithms that are being driving like whatever people are watching. And so there's still a little bit of this navigating of what is the algorithm for the virtual reality content, as well as is it even at the scale by which these independent creators would be able to go out on their own and create the content and be able to deliver it to the audience and get enough ad revenue to be able to actually sustain themselves as a creator? I would suspect that that's very unlikely that there's very many people that are able to do that yet. And like I said, we don't see a lot of transparency in terms of Google or YouTube sharing a lot of data around this and to see what's actually happening with the overall ecosystem. And so we just kind of have to guess in terms of. what is the vibrancy of this overall ecosystem. But that's kind of just my gut, is that a lot of the different agencies that I've talked to, they don't tend to post a lot of things on YouTube as the mechanism by which they're going to make an entire living. It tends to be much more of these one-off video bloggers or entrepreneurs who are adopting these new technologies and maybe finding some niche where they can really start to find the real compelling use cases for this immersive technology. I would expect that people who give guided tours, who do tourism, who are showing you around somebody's home and just telling the stories of space, I think is going to be one of the more compelling applications of some of this 360 video, especially on YouTube. And I think it was also really encouraging just to hear from the leadership within YouTube of the emphasis on empathy and the transformational potential of a lot of these technologies in terms of what it means to be able to take you in and give you an experience of somebody else's life in some way. And Google certainly funded a number of these different types of pieces. But I think that over time, what is probably most likely is that we're going to see a number of these creators that are going to find the sweet spot and trying to figure out how to work the algorithm, how to be sustainable. And one of the things that I would love to see Google step up and start to do is look at what the cable access and community media initiatives that have been through cable have been able to do in terms of seeding these different media centers around the country. Because cable is diminishing then a lot of those Resources to be able to support these types of community media that are grounded within these communities are kind of driving up And so I have this interview with Kathy Bisbee that I'll be interviewing here soon talking about community media but this is a great opportunity if Google really wanted to kind of step up and really start to seed a this community media and find new ways to empower these types of stories from these communities. I think that picking up the budgetary gaps of where a lot of the community media and cable access is dwindling, I think that virtual and augmented reality and 360 video, this is one area where an investment in a lot of these different community media organizations for these different initiatives could make a huge difference. And so that's one of the things that I would love to see. And finally, just to say that, you know, Google is pushing forward, I think, in the long run with both VR and AR. I think that they're probably seeing a lot more short-term traction when it comes to ARCore, just because, like, there's so many Android phones that are out there and that the APIs that are being developed internally within the ARCore team starting to spread out into many more different applications within Android. And so there's just a lot of low-level, fundamental, like, Java frameworks and things that are happening at the Android level that they're trying to become much easier to be able to do this 3D pipeline and they're starting with augmented reality but over time I think that we're going to see much more immersive content that's coming eventually on Daydream once it becomes a more viable VR ecosystem. I think with a Lenovo Mirage Solo it's a great headset and I'm excited to see where that goes and to see what other applications are going to be Ported over between oculus go and the daydream I think there's a pretty close parity in terms of the three DOF controllers and this headset and Overall just get the sense that that Google really is committed to immersive virtual reality and augmented technology and this whole transformation that's happening from the 2d to the 3d and immersive computing and and I expect things like Google Glass and AR headsets that are head mounted. I think that if that is the end goal of where we're going by, say, 2025, we've still got a lot of this ecosystem. And I think YouTube VR, of any of the different properties of Google, is probably the most successful in terms of really cultivating a content ecosystem and being able to create something that is going to drive people to jump into VR to have a much more immersive experience of some of this type of media. So, that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon your donations in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So, you can donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.