VLC inches towards VR with support for 360-degree videos

VLC is gearing up for the future of virtual reality and 360-degree videos with a new technical preview.

Beloved open source video player VLC is getting into the 360-degree video trend with plans to go full VR in 2017.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, VLC maker VideoLan introduced a technical preview called VLC 360° for Windows and Mac. The experimental version allows you to view 360-degree videos using the desktop program, navigating the video with your mouse. The 360-degree feature is set to be folded into the stable version of VLC version 3.0. If you want to try the technical preview, know that it will replace your current build of VLC.

To make VLC 360° a reality, the open source organization worked with Giroptic, a company that makes a consumer grade 360-degree camera. VLC 360° uses Google’s spatial media specifications, including Spherical Video and Spatial Audio.

Sadly, this early version of VLC doesn't support YouTube 360-degree videos using VLC’s network stream feature. VideoLan does have a few sample videos you can try out, however. We contacted VideoLan about YouTube support, and Video Lan President Jean-Baptiste Kempf told us that support for YouTube videos is dependent on Google. “When YouTube will export videos with the 360 metadata standard, they will play directly,” Kempf said.

Support for 360-degree video is just the beginning for VLC’s immersive video plans. In 2017, the group plans to support virtual reality headsets such as the Google Daydream, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift. VideoLan also plans to support Razer’s OSVR.

360-degree video support will also expand beyond the desktop. Future versions of VLC for Android and iOS will receive 360-degree video support and use device sensors to navigate inside the videos. That means mobile VR headsets like Samsung’s GearVR should work with VLC. VideoLan also plans to add 360-degree video support to its Universal Windows app, which will bring support to the Xbox One as well as the Windows Store app for Windows 10. VLC will also get 3D audio in the future including support for head-tracking headphones.

Why this matters: VLC’s major claim to fame is its ability to play pretty much any video format you throw at it. It appears 360-degree videos will be no exception, and the new feature is coming just in time. The Vive and Rift are already out, but Microsoft is planning to democratize VR as part of the Windows 10 Creators Update. VLC should be upgraded just in time to for Microsoft’s big VR push.

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