The live video arms race continues to heat up, with YouTube announcing today that it's launching what it says is the first 360-degree live streaming feature.
The action comes after Facebook has made aggressive moves with its relatively new Live video service, which has been rolled out on a wider scale in some 60 countries in the last couple months.
YouTube in March 2015 announced 360-degree video, and has had live streaming since 2011. Now it seeks to combine those two features for creators and brands. It will also have a 360-degree live stream of select artists at Coachella, sponsored by T-Mobile, this upcoming weekend. (It has previously live-streamed Coachella.)
A spokeswoman for YouTube said anyone can watch 360 live streams on any device: desktop, tablet, Android, and Apple's iOS.
It remains to be seen what brands, media companies and agencies will use 360-degree live streaming, or even live video on a wide scale, for that matter.
"What excites me most about 360-degree storytelling is that it lets us open up the world's experiences to everyone," said Neal Mohan, YouTube's chief product officer, in a blog post Monday. "Students can now experience news events in the classroom as they unfold. Travelers can experience faraway sites and explorers can deep-sea dive, all without the physical constraints of the real world. And today's kids dreaming of going to a basketball game or a concert can access those experiences firsthand, even if they're far away from the court. What were once limited experiences are now available to anyone, anywhere, at any time."
Last week at its F8 conference, Facebook opened the gates to streaming from any device, including drones and high-definition cameras, a big advancement that means more high-quality live video, from branded content to news to sports, could run on the platform. In a move that Facebook hopes will increase 360 video on its platform, it also unveiled an open-source 360-degree camera called Facebook Surround, which it encouraged people to build on their own.
YouTube also announced that it's launching spatial audio for on-demand YouTube videos. "Just as watching a concert in 360 degrees can give you an unmatched immersive experience, spatial audio allows you to listen along as you do in real life, where depth, distance and intensity all play a role," said Mr. Mohan in the blog post.
In the blog post, Mr. Mohan said YouTube has been been working with companies like VideoStitch and Two Big Ears to make their software compatible with 360-degree live streams or spatial audio on YouTube.
It also is working with camera makers ALLie Camera, Orah 4i to make their camera compatible with 360-degree live streaming. A spokeswoman said that today the company is also opening its Live API "so camera manufacturers interested in 360 through our Live API can use our YouTube Live Streaming API to send 360-degree live streams to YouTube. Once we launch support to 360 Live Streaming and open up the API today, you can expect to see more cameras available soon."