President Barack Obama spoke with Youtube creators recently in a 50-minute video interview, and in the last few minutes of the video a Theta 360-degree camera popped up to snap a panoramic selfie of Obama with his interviewers.
The moment is a notable snapshot of the evolution of content creation, social media and American discourse. The video begins with Senator Obama in 2007 discussing how he will have “21st century fireside chats where I’m speaking directly to the American people through video streams.” He followed through on that promise and the American people responded accordingly, with the video posted late last week already viewed more than 1 million times.
Google purchased Youtube in 2006 and it turned out to be one of the more spectacular decisions in the history of technology. A decade later Youtube is a fundamental part of world culture, an audio-visual platform that allows anyone with a video camera to be seen and heard by those a world away. What Youtube did was simplify the sharing of video. It offered people a simple upload button and embed code to spread a video across the world. It erased so much complexity from the process of sharing video and the world is changed because of it.
That’s why the 360-degree photo with the Theta camera is an important snapshot. In 2015, creating VR content was hard but Theta is a $350 consumer device that makes it easier. In 2016 and beyond, producing VR will get easier and easier while simultaneously moving beyond a simple 360-degree still photo. The 360-degree snapshot embedded in this post of Obama previews a future where technologies will help people teleport from place to place in VR with the same ease with which they press the “Upload” button on Youtube.