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Virtual reality and 360-degree streaming with Wowza

January 14, 2016 by Chris Knowlton

Throughout 2014 and 2015, Wowza has seen growing interest in virtual reality and 360-degree viewing experiences. In the ever-evolving landscape that is live streaming, these technologies are emerging as two of the most innovative trends, powering events such as live sports and concerts.
Anyone who has used Google Street View or Bing Streetside in a browser has already experienced interactive 360-degree photography, in which you move through a scene by tapping and panning. You can have similar experiences today with on-demand and live video streams, too. Some mobile apps make it more virtual by changing the scene based on the position and motion of your device. Try on-demand videos today on the YouTube #360Video channel.
Virtual reality (VR) goggles take 360-degree visual experiences even further by adjusting what you see based on which direction your face is pointing. To these, you can add additional sensory cues—platforms such as Virtuix Omni that allow you to seemingly walk in any direction, plus 360-degree audio that provides accurate directional sound no matter which way you're facing.
There may be big business here. While VR goggles of all types currently seem like techy toys that might remind you a bit of the 3D TV fad a few years ago, their potential for real-world value-added applications and revenue should not be overlooked. According to VentureBeat, as of October 2015 there are 234 companies in the VR space, employing 40,000 people and generating $13B in value. These businesses are creating the content, technologies, and gear that power these virtual experiences. They include many companies you’ve never heard of, plus the bigger companies you know by name, such as Google, Ricoh, Facebook, Intel, 20th Century Fox, Marvel, IMAX, Microsoft, Sony, and more. Digi-Capital estimates market revenue for VR will hit $30B by 2020.
How quickly will we be able to share a virtual seat with others as we tune into a live virtual-reality broadcast straight from the couch? Expect 2016 to be the year in which live events go to this next level. The Wowza-powered Lollapalooza Berlin 2015 music festival in 4K and a Golden State Warriors basketball game were early tests, allowing you to look in any direction from the camera of your choice, whether on stage with the band or courtside at half-court.
Those last examples hint at where Wowza fits in with VR. While a few VR technologies use proprietary streaming technologies, most use industry-standard streaming protocols that are at the heart of Wowza Streaming Engine and Wowza Streaming Cloud. The dozens of 360-degree cameras and video-stitching applications available can output a standard H.264 video stream over the RTSP protocol. A few examples include GIROPTIC, 360fly, and VideoStitch Vahana VR. Wowza Streaming Engine and Wowza Streaming Cloud can then take that one HD stream and transrate it into multiple bitrate renditions for adaptive streaming delivery to any screen, regardless of device resolution or local bandwidth. Playback is achieved using player apps from companies such as krpano, Finwe, Oculus, and Google.
360-degree views and VR have nearly limitless applications. We’ll soon see see VR streaming used in racing of all types, weddings, corporate meetings, education, medicine, military applications, and many other areas.
Hang on for the ride—it’s gonna be fun!

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Chris Knowlton

As a passionate evangelist for streaming media products, Chris Knowlton has spent 15 years working on technologies that make live and on-demand media delivery accessible. A recognized industry authority, Chris was honored in 2011 as a “Streaming Media All-Star” by Streaming Media Magazine, and holds several patents for streaming technologies.