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December 15, 2017

The official YouTube VR app is here … with mixed results

by John_A

Closing in on two years since the release of the two big mainstream virtual reality headsets on PC, Google has released an official YouTube VR application. As much as this is a welcome addition to the existing methods of viewing 3D and 360-degree YouTube videos in a VR headset though, early reviews suggest it still needs a lot of work.

Ever since the first developer kit VR headsets were released by Oculus, one of the more common activities people have been keen to do in VR is watch videos on impossibly enormous screens in bizarre places, YouTube videos included. There are a ton of apps that let you do that today and considering the response to Google’s attempt to officially support VR through a YouTube app, they may be the better alternative.

Available now on Steam, it is fair to highlight that the YouTube VR app is in Early Access. It supports traditional 2D videos, as well as 180 degree and 3D 360 videos, giving users access to a near-infinite amount of content — some of it better suited than others to viewing in virtual reality. That is where the compliments end, though.

Unlike most VR games, the minimum specifications for using the YouTube VR app are actually higher than that of the headsets themselves. You need an Nvidia GTX 980 or AMD R9 Fury to run the app, according to the Steam listing and even then, there are problems. Highlighted issues by early reviews include a lack of dual-controller support, the controller is only invisible when held in an unnatural vertical position, and the controls are said to be finicky and require too much precision.

Oculus Rift owners also report that the controller shown in VR is a Vive wand regardless of headset, there is a lack of quality control settings on all platforms, and the search bar is difficult to use.

This is all somewhat of a surprise to most users, as Google has been behind some of the most well-received VR experiences and applications, like TiltBrush and Google Earth VR. It’s also at the forefront of hardware development with its Daydream platform and yet to quote one reviewer, YouTube VR feels like it was “created by someone, who does not use VR on a regular basis.”

For a better alternative to watching YouTube videos in VR, BigScreen is one of the most well-loved. For a look at some of our favorite VR apps, check out the list here.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Oculus Rift vs. Oculus Go — is it still better to be tethered to a PC?
  • Google Daydream View 2 vs. Oculus Go — which will be the better VR experience?
  • Google Daydream View (2017) review
  • Windows Mixed Reality news: Here’s everything you need to know
  • Everything we know about the Oculus Go virtual reality headset

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