Recently at a National Ski Area Association conference, my friend Halley O'Brien was showing people a 360 video on her iPhone. She handed people her phone and they swiveled, tilted and dove right in. That was my wakeup call that 360 virtual reality video is viable now.
Seeing is believing, so checkout Halley's 360 video at Solitude below here. You don't need a special headset or some plug-in either. Its built right into Youtube and now Facebook. All you need is Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Opera browser (note not Safari) browser on your computer, or your iOS or Android mobile. Boom.
Now the only problem is Safari. If you come to this page or any with embedded 360 vids through your iPhone, this just won't work. So take two minutes and tell Apple to get on it. For those that reached this via that path, sorry. Open your Youtube native app and just search for 360 video and you'll find plenty of great examples.
Use your mouse and pan in all directions on your desktop, or simply twirl around with your mobile in front of you. Its intuitive and the experience is legit. The quality has some work still, but that's a function of the camera used. There are much higher quality camera rigs out now, and many more on their way to market.
Applications of 360 Video
The marketing applications for destinations and other "experiential" products are obvious. This is the gateway into Virtual Reality to provide an immersive tease to draw guests to your location.
Here are some examples that also extend beyond destination travel marketing... just for fun :)
Destination Travel > Touring Hamilton Island by Quantas Air
Entertainment > Star Wars Teaser
Entertainment > MythBusters: Shark Shipreck
Touring > Grand Canyon
Action Sports > Surfing
Exploring the World
This isn't technically "Virtual Reality". Virtual Reality is 3D stereoscopic and requires special headsets. It is however an immersive experience that puts the viewer right there and in control. This is going to explode because for once, this is a technology that doesn't force people to download, install, and configure anything. All you need is the phone that's probably already in your hands... and off you go!
I will follow up with hardware info, so keep an eye out for that to come.