The popularity of the 360 video cameras and the virtual reality has skyrocketed over the last few years as a result of the successful work of companies such as Insta360, Ricoh, Google, or the formerly known as Facebook, Meta. However, if you got involved with any of these technologies back then, you may have felt stagnation more recently.
New forms of business have emerged out of these new technologies, and others still remain to be explored. The essence of VR and 360 video is immersion, and this is where the main 360 video streaming platforms like YouTube or Facebook Live have failed to excel. True teleport-like immersion requires a list of features that are missing in these platforms:
The nature of YouTube and Facebook Live is unmistakably social, public, and mass audience-oriented. To put it simply, one person broadcasts live video to many viewers, the more the better. This is fantastic for talented creators that can flourish from their small channels with basic equipment at home, to become world-famous celebrities who gather thousands of viewers in their live streams. It is also ideal for broadcasts of cultural or sports related events.
The indisputable success of these video streaming applications is also their limitation, since it prevents a fully customised service. There is no chance for tailor-made visual experiences, and the viewer has to adapt to the offer available as a mere passive spectator. This is a significant limitation when it comes to immersive VR products. The viewer is just one more individual in a multitude, and whatever they say or do won't have any effect. In this respect, there is not much difference between a live stream and any recorded footage, which will normally have higher image quality.
Imagine you are at a party, trying to engage in conversation with the people around you, and nobody replies at all. You would feel ignored, out of place, and you would end up going back home rather sooner than later. The same can be applied to an immersive video experience where the ability to interact with the environment is crucial to feeling part of it.
The closer VR can simulate the real-life senses, the more the user will forget about their actual surroundings and engage with the one presented by the 360 video stream. The rapid development of control devices, haptic wearables and robotics, is enabling higher levels of immersion in the near future. For now, the very least that can be done to ensure interactivity is going beyond the simple Like button clicking and enabling bidirectional verbal communication, like in a regular video/audio call. This way, the user can provide and receive real-time feedback and give indications to the streamer, such as moving to a specific place or executing a particular action.
Do you recall the last time you had a phone call and the lag ruined the whole communication? It is practically impossible to hold a normal dialogue when the delay goes over 300ms. Keeping latency to a minimum is critical to increasing immersion, and this can only be achieved when the communication is established peer-to-peer directly, without intermediate servers.
Low latency is not as essential for the mentioned live streaming video platforms, where the only near-real time feedback is just written chat, and not direct verbal communication. The delay could go up to 5-15 seconds in an average live broadcast, assuming ideal bandwidth.
The video streaming could easily be considered the most relevant online industry since YouTube shook the internet in 2005. Audiences have continued to grow, especially after the popularisation of smartphones. Even today, younger applications like Netflix, Twitch and TikTok are revolutionising particular streaming subindustries, i.e., films, gaming and short viral content, respectively.
They have created gigantic ecosystems that facilitate synergies by suggesting similar content and creators. Video after video and streamer after streamer, the user can be lured and entertained for hours. It has probably happened to you too, chaining "just one more" video until late into the night. The related content recommendation is a double-edged sword, though. Bigger and trending audiences are prioritised by the algorithm, whereas smaller niche productions can get displaced and stuck in irrelevance.
360 footage and VR content require specific equipment, which sets the entry bar much higher than it is for regular video. Not surprisingly, 360-degree videos get way fewer viewers on average. For example, try to search for the terms "4K walk Tokyo" and "360 walk Tokyo" on YouTube and compare the results. Similar outcomes can be observed for other types of content, which prevents them from being recommended as frequently, limiting traction and, in many cases, causing frustration to their creators.
Although YouTube and Facebook Live allow a certain degree of control over who can see a video, they are not designed to support purely private streams. Even if a video is allowed to be played by just one person, it will be stored on their servers in any case, so the author actually loses control over their own product.
Once again, the alternative is peer-to-peer communication. Real privacy can only be achieved by ensuring the connection is established device-to-device without intermediate servers or cloud storage. Only this way can both participants of the call be sure that the audio and video streams are under their total control.
The biggest video streaming platforms have conquered the internet thanks to their social and public approach, but that is a crucial limitation when it comes to optimising immersion and privacy. If you have used YouTube as a 360 video creator, you have probably experienced that feeling of using the wrong tool for your task at some point, and how that has been preventing you from achieving adequate monetisation.
call360 is an alternative platform created with the goal of covering that gap. call360 leverages peer-to-peer private 360 video calls and brings in essential features to allow you to captivate customers and attract new viewers with teleport-like tailor-made sensorial experiences, opening up new ways of business yet to be explored along with the popularisation of the virtual reality.
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