When people finally get their hands on virtual reality headsets like Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR, the first thing they’re going to look for is something to watch that’s not a canned demo. VCEMO, which started raising funds on Kickstarter on Monday, wants to become a platform for streaming 360-degree videos that works with most virtual reality headsets.
When VCEMO launches, it will position itself to be something like a YouTube for VR headsets — simply navigate to a video page and press play. It’s possible because 360-degree video doesn’t come in an unusual file format; it usually comes in a simple flat MP4 file that’s a bit larger than most web videos. It’s already easy for interested dabblers to record 360-degree video from cameras like Giroptic or Jaunt.
“We want to be something like a Vimeo for virtual reality professionals,” co-founder Matthew Griffith said, a “private VR video network for content creators.”
But the difference between VCEMO and other video sites like YouTube is that VR videos need input from the user. Somehow the video needs to have access to the headset’s sensor data — so that when the user looks up, the video follows too. That means there needs to be an interface from the headset to the browser, which ends up being a browser plug-in.
Obviously, latency is going to be a problem in the browser. [company]Google[/company] is working on a API called WebVR that’s currently available in beta versions of Chrome and has been implemented in Mozilla Firefox. But WebVR development can be opaque and halting, so one of the first challenges facing VCEMO is to work out its own virtual reality API plug-in to keep latency low.
To this point, most VR videos and games have been installed on the VR headset’s local storage. Plus, it’s likely that a company like Oculus is going to focus on its own experience at the expense of cross-platform compatibility. If VCEMO is successful, it could become the default place for a filmmaker or action sports athlete to upload their 360-degree footage. But it’s likely that Google, [company]Facebook[/company] and even companies like [company]GoPro[/company] are building similar distribution systems.
According to Griffiths, the difference between the tech giants and VCEMO comes down to privacy and data mining. “VR should be private — because it is filmed in first person, it is the most personal video,” Griffiths said.
VCEMO eventually wants to stream live 360-degree content and support a large number of VR headsets. That could end up being a challenge — only Oculus currently has a public SDK, and conceivably, any smartphone can become a makeshift VR headset with a product like Google Cardboard. That means that VCEMO could potentially have to configure for hundreds of slightly different headsets.
VCEMO is hoping to have Oculus support completed by January, when the website will launch. The young company hopes to have mobile apps for Android and iOS by next summer.
It might seem odd for such an ambitious idea to get started through crowdfunding, but don’t forget that Oculus Rift was once a Kickstarter as well. Plus, the team behind VCEMO is young — all six team members are currently finishing up their college educations at Vassar in Poughkeepsie, New York.
What is VCEMO going to do with the $34,500 it hopes to raise? First thing, it will pay its developers, who are currently working for equity. Second, it’ll need to pay for a lot of Amazon server time — after all, a Vimeo for VR will probably need a ton of bandwidth.
You can visit the VCEMO Kickstarter page here.
Images courtesy of VCEMO on Kickstarter