Google Opening Up VR180 Virtual Reality Format to Devs

Google is opening up its VR180 video format to any developer or tech pro who wants to experiment with it.

For those who don’t follow the virtual reality (VR) industry that closely, VR180 is a format that allows creators to record immersive videos in 4K resolution. On the software side, components for immersive video include the Spherical Video Metadata V2 standard, along with the Camera Motion Metadata Spec; for photos, there’s the VR Photo Format that Google originally developed for the Cardboard Camera.

Google has released details about the platform to GitHub and the Google Developer website. If you’re curious about VR and/or photography, its information is well worth checking out.

In contrast to Facebook, HTC and Valve, all of which have pursued VR from the angle of high-cost headsets (the Oculus Rift, in the case of Facebook; the Vive, in the case of HTC and Valve), Google has long focused on “democratizing” VR through ultra-cheap headsets and a more open developer ecosystem. In this fashion, the search-engine giant is following the playbook it pioneered with Android, which it gave away free to phone and tablet manufacturers. In theory, a free or low-cost platform will grow very quickly, allowing its creator to seize massive chunks of market-share (albeit at the expense of profits).

Although VR attracted a good deal of early hype and investment, it’s also been eclipsed by augmented reality (AR), which superimposes digital illusions over real-world landscapes. Apple and Google have both rushed to build AR tools for smartphones; Google’s latest offering on that front, ARCore, allows third-party developers to build Android-based AR apps for both work and play.

Even if VR remains specialized, however, it could remain attractive to developers who build either games or highly specific apps. For example, tech pros building an app for a news service could benefit from something like VR180’s ultra-immersive environments. As with most kinds of software, you’re largely limited by your imagination (and some hardware specs).