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360 Video in 2020

By: Mich Donovan

Insta360 One R
Insta360 One R

We’ve been experimenting in the 360 video / VR headset space for a couple years now and it’s been fascinating to follow the trend in real time. In particular, we’ve been working with the Insta360 Pro and the Oculus Go headset to explore academic use cases for these immersive video projects. As we start a new year, recent announcements from both Insta360 and Oculus point towards a diminishing interest in this use case and for 360 video in general.

As mentioned in a recent blog post, Insta360’s new camera is the One R. It encourages you to “adapt to the action” with two ways to shoot: as a 360 cam or as a 4k 60fps wide-angle lens. It features a AI-driven tracking algorithm to automatically follow moving subjects in your shots. The Auto Frame algorithm automatically detects which portions of a 360 shot would work best within a 16:9 frame. In almost every marketed feature, there’s a subtext of using the 360 camera as powerful tool for outputting 16:9 video. Coming from one of the leaders in the 360 camera space, this focus isn’t particularly encouraging for the long-term consumption of 360 video.

The viewing of 360 video was always at its most immersive in a headset, which has proved to be one of the biggest boundaries to wider adoption, since most viewers are unlikely to even have a headset, let alone find it and put it on just to watch a video. As such, the standalone $200 Oculus Go seemed a natural solution for businesses who could produce their own 360 content and simply hand over an Oculus Go headset to their client. Recently, however, Oculus dropped the Go from its Oculus for Business platform, suggesting their Oculus Quest is the best solution for most business VR needs. This development sees Oculus leaning more towards support for full Virtual Reality, and less towards immersive 360 video playback.

While certainly not gone from the conversation, excitement and application for 360 video seems to be waning from a couple years ago. We’ll continue to search for use cases and projects that show the potential of this technology, so please reach out to the DDMC if you find any exciting possibilities.

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