Google’s YouTube has now made their app available on Facebook’s Oculus Go standalone headset. The app was previously available on Samsung Gear VR, which uses the same store as Oculus Go, but Go was blacklisted until today.
YouTube VR launched on Gear VR back in July, but no word was given on Go support. At Oculus Connect 5 in late September, Oculus Product Manager Sean Liu finally announced that the app was coming to Go.
The app allows users to view all of YouTube’s standard 2D content, but the main focus is on immersive 360° videos (a big focus for YouTube in recent years). Because it’s difficult to type in VR, the app provides a voice search function using Google’s best-in-class speech recognition technology, the same used in Google Home smart speakers. Users can view their own subscriptions, history, and playlists including their YouTube Music playlists.
The reason for the delay between the Gear VR and Go release is likely down to Go’s lack of Google Play Services- Google’s background software installed on all Android phones which have the Google Play store. It provides features and services to many Android apps, including YouTube. Go does not have it because Go uses Facebook’s own fork of Android, and does not have Google Play. Porting to Go will have required Google to remove any dependence on Play Services, or perhaps just have baked it directly into the app.
Google’s support for the Oculus platform despite having its own directly competing Daydream platform should be commended, but it may be part of a strategy to try and keep YouTube as the dominant video sharing platform in 360° content just as it currently is for 2D content. In the smartphone world, Google makes all of its apps available on iPhones despite owning Android, because Google’s revenue model is primarily based around advertising & services, not hardware.