Is 360º video (360 Degree Video) Really VR?

Is 360º video (360 Degree Video) Really VR?

Anyone in advertising can tell you that the “name of the game” is to create a brand word or phrase that becomes popular jargon.  In the United States, industry-defining success stories include the brand-name Kleenex, which is used almost universally instead of the generic term: tissue. Then there’s Jell-o, which has come to mean any gelatin, to the chagrin of their competitors. Can anyone tell me the generic name for a Q-tip? Cotton swab? Really?

Ad agencies not only try to achieve such success for clients, but also to rename their own most “commonplace” tactics – names to make them more “sexy” or “edgy” – meaning more expensive. Examples include renaming video production as “digital” (to the chagrin of video production companies) and renaming web development as “interactive” (to the chagrin of both web and interactive media designers).

In the case of 360º video, I suspect that in their neo-faux-industrial meeting space at the agency Bull & Shite, a conversation went something like this:

B: We need a new name for 360 degree video.

S: How about “360º is hot!”?

B: Good idea, but we need a new name, not a tag line.

S: Hmmm. Surround-o-vision?

B: 50’s. Sounds 50’s.

S: How about Virtual Reality Video?

B: Oh you’re good! But can we lose the “video?” Sounds old, like blue jeans.

S: You’re right. It’s a tactic. We’re Brand Strategists.

B: No no no. We’re Cultural Disruptors. Where’ve you been?

S: I forgot. Ok, Digital Virtual Reality. Or, hey, let’s just drop “video.”

B: Virtual Reality?

S: Virtual Reality.

B: Who’ll go for that? Isn’t there an entire culture dedicated to VR that will resist this? Like NASA or something?

S: Naa. They’re getting de-funded. Let’s see if we can find a media sponsor that’s losing money, or needs a lift – some company that doesn’t care that much about accurate definitions.

B: A Media Company. OH! A TV network! They’ve been trading dollars for dimes. OR a NEWZ-paper! Oh that would be good!

S: Most newspapers are big on accuracy, but yeah, that would be good … but who?

And so it came to pass, that the definition of VR changed from flight simulators for astronauts, full-scale architectural walk-throughs and large-scale visualizations for molecular scientists to … a 360 video. The definition before: “a realistic and immersive simulation of a three-dimensional environment, created using interactive software and hardware, and experienced or controlled by movement of the body.” The definition now: a 360º video, which isn’t a simulation, isn’t interactive and takes no software or hardware to interactive with. A video. Shown through goggles. As in New York Times Virtual Reality. Go figure.

But hey! I’m in! 360 videos are now VR. So what else is Virtual Reality today?

Stay tuned.


The bottom line: Businesses planning on creating Virtual Reality should know their audience and purpose before they start, as delivery through portable domes, local theaters or VR head mounted displays require differing techniques, which effects content creation decisions, and therefore distribution and costs. Contact VR-MAX for additional information. 612-338-7771 or craigs at

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