I would be hard pressed to decide on which is talked about more in virtual reality, gaming or 360 video. 360 video is a big aspect of the VR scene right now, with folks like YouTube, Twitch, and even Vimeo getting in on the hosting of 360 videos for the current crop of VR headsets like the Oculus, Vive, and GearVR. For those who are not aware, 360 video is simply video that wraps around you completely instead of only being displayed on a screen in front of you. That means that with a VR headset (or in some cases using a cell phone) you can turn yourself completely around 360 degrees and you will see aspects of the video as if you are in the middle of the scene. It’s pretty cool when done right.
360 degree video generally comes in two forms, the normal 360 which is like seeing the scene displayed around you, but having no top or bottom images; and spherical which wraps you in a…yep, you guessed it, a sphere of video so that you can see the scene around you, above you, and to a degree below you. There is generally a dark area where the camera is physically sitting. Take a look at the video below. You can use your mouse to pan left, right, up, and down.
The 360 Video To-do List
As you can imagine that video would be much more fun if you were using a VR headset. Now that you’ve had your lesson in 360 video and you’ve seen an example you may be thinking, well, that’s cool. I wanna see more. How do I do that? Well, you are going to need a couple things. The first thing is your head mounted display of choice. Go ahead, go and get it, I’ll wait.
Okay. Now you have to decide how you are going to watch the video. Unfortunately you can’t just magically jump into YouTube or Vimeo and be immersed in the videos. You’ll need a VR 360 video player and that is where DEO VR comes in.
DEO VR: A New Gateway to 360 Video
DEO VR is a 360 degree VR video player and was developed by a company of the same name. DEO VR requires a head mounted display to work and it currently supports three. The Oculus Rift, Gear VR, and most recently the HTC Vive.
The website, deovr.com, says that Google Cardboard support is coming soon. I’ve tried it on all three of the currently supported headsets. While the HTC Vive and Gear VR versions are pretty much the same features wise, the Oculus version has a cool addition that makes DEO VR very attractive when using the Rift platform.
Downloading, Installation & Setup
DEO VR can be downloaded from their website. Just click on the headset you plan to use and a small download will occur. Once it is downloaded you can unzip the package and then run the DeoPlayer.exe. Before you run the DEO VR software make sure that you have started your Oculus or Steam VR software. It should be running in the background before you attempt to run DEO VR. This only applies to computer based HMDs.
The GearVR install is a bit more involved and requires downloading a sideloader application and then having a custom .apk file created. The instructions for doing this and the links to the software you will need can be found when you click the download for GearVR on the DEO VR site. It walks you through step by step. It takes a bit of time, but it’s pretty straight forward. Once it is installed on your Samsung phone you will run it like any other app, not through the Oculus home, but by simply touching the DEO VR app and starting it up. Then you will connect the phone to your Gear VR. Clear as mud?
Unfortunately there is nothing that I could find in the way of documentation or instructions for how the application itself works inside each HMD. This is a pretty big oversight in my opinion and the website itself is pretty sparse. In fact, there is so little information I’m not sure that many people would believe it’s a serious software site. There needs to be something that gives you the basics for how to get 360 video and how to view it in the application and what to expect. I can’t even find screenshots on what the viewer looks like, nor was I able to capture them myself as OBS would not capture the window in VR.
DEO VR supports the Vive controller when using the Vive, and the Oculus remote on the Oculus. You can use the Xbox One controller that came with the Oculus for both. Instructions for how the controls work are also found on their website, but no details on the Oculus remote or the controls for the Gear VR.
DEOVR & Oculus Rift – Your YouTube-Streaming Super Team
As I mentioned above, the DEO VR player is pretty much the same on the HTC Vive and Samsung GearVR. This means that it works like almost every other 360 VR video application out there, such as Kolor Eyes or Whirligig. You have to have the 360 videos downloaded somewhere on the computer or device. Then you are required to browse to them by clicking on the folder icon that is found at the top left of the video window. When you choose the video you want, click play and the viewer should take over. Theoretically.
“I switched to my Oculus Rift to give THE viewer a final look. I guess I saved the best for last.”
I wish I could at least show this portion to you, but alas, I am not able to for the reasons mentioned in the above paragraph. Be that as it may, this is a feature I could not try out because I did not have any 360 videos readily available for testing. I also could not easily find them to download. There are third party softwares that allow you to download 360 video from YouTube, but I was not clear on the legalities of that and so I stayed away. In this day and age of streaming, I also wasn’t excited about needing to first download my videos to watch them. Which is why I don’t already use something like Kolor Eyes.
I was becoming a bit disappointed by this point, but then I switched to my Oculus Rift to give the viewer a final look. I guess I saved the best for last. The experience was wholly different and so much better. It seems clear that DEO VR was made with Oculus in mind. The Oculus version allows you to do all of the same things that you can with the Vive or Gear version, but with one major difference. The Oculus version allows you to stream 360 videos directly from YouTube. There is a YouTube icon at the top left, next to the folder icon that takes you to a built in browser displaying, wait for it…..YouTube 360 videos. You can choose a video, click the typical full screen icon in the YouTube video viewer and away you go.
Conjuring Some 360 Entertainment
I thought I was running into trouble when I first tried to use this. I chose to try The Conjuring 2 VR experience as my first test. I started it up and switched to full screen. It seemed that the video was playing like a normal video on a big screen in front of me rather than in the desired 360 format. I tried to mess with the settings. There aren’t many. You can choose the type of video, flat, 180, or 360. Then you can choose a format. Mono, side by side or top/bottom which are just different ways that 360 and 3D videos can be made. These options are the same for all three versions of the viewer. The settings didn’t seem to affect anything when I changed them and I was a bit miffed. Again, some documentation of what to expect would have helped out greatly here. There were only so many options and none of them worked. I skipped ahead in the video and wham, it was in VR mode but all out of scale.
I knew I was doing something wrong and so I dropped back to the YouTube video browser and chose the video again. This time I just waited as the experience ran. Turns out, The Conjuring 2 experience was meant to start off like a big screen in front of you. The watcher is drawn into it once they finish reading the text about the experience. That means that there was nothing wrong with the viewer. In fact it was doing something I didn’t expect. It automatically detected the settings for each video I tried and setup the viewer accordingly. I tried side by side, top/bottom, spherical, everything worked without me having to change a single setting. That was very impressive to me.
Still Working Out The Kinks
There are some issues with the built in YouTube browser though. The window is too small to show all of the available videos horizontally. You can tell there are videos further on the right but there is no way that I could find to scroll to them. Scrolling down is possible and there is a built in search feature. Still, not being able to scroll right when you know there are videos there makes browsing hard when, like me, you are just looking for interesting content but have no idea what you might search for specifically. This can be fixed by adding a horizontal scroll bar. Despite this issue, the ability to stream videos from YouTube really allows DEO VR to shine, on the Oculus anyway. I tried some other viewers like the ones that come by default with the Gear and Oculus. They do not currently allow streaming from YouTube. They do allow streaming from services like Twitch and Vimeo; though I’m not sure they allow immersive 360 video. Only normal video on a much bigger virtual screen.
Adding It All Up
So in the end if you are using an Oculus Rift then I would seriously consider looking into DEO VR for your 360 video viewing needs. It’s pretty simple to get up and running, as well as streaming those YouTube videos. It may take a bit more time to get used to without written instructions. Still, with a bit of playing around it should all make sense to most people. Especially if you learn from my mistakes above. For my Oculus, DEO VR is one of the better viewers that I’ve used, though I’ve only used a few.
If you have an HTC Vive or GearVR then you still might enjoy using DEO VR. However it does not offer the same benefit as using an Oculus. There is no information on whether they plan to add the ability to stream YouTube videos on these platforms. I certainly hope this is being added. If it is, then to me that makes DEO VR a bit of a stand out. Perhaps in a bit of a niche way, but YouTube has a lot of great 360 content and is a great platform for 360 creators.
If they want to be taken more seriously they need a lot more work on their website. They need to offer more information; and give people a better idea of how to use and why to use their viewer. I wanted to get DEO VR’s input and perhaps ask some questions so I reached out to them. I did not hear from them by the time I needed to turn this article in, however. If I do, I will update this and let you all know.