Valve has made it easier for users to watch immersive videos on their VR headsets by releasing a beta version of Steam 360 Video Player.The video player allows for instant playback of VR movies and other linear VR shorts and shows including The Hunger Games 360, Lego Batman and (for the braver players) Alien Covenant in Utero. The player uses Pixvana SPIN Studio technology to stream in virtual reality and this means there is no need to launch a separate application which is what users had to do before.

As it is in beta, Steam have launched a community hub for questions and discussions of the player.Valve says that in the minimum specifications for 360 video playback are basically the same for the Virtual Reality HMD. The general specifics are Windows 10, an Intel i5-4590, AMD FX 8350 equivalent or better processor and 50 MB available space. Head to the FAQ page to see the full specification.

There are four different types of 360 videos on Steam. There is Mono, where the video was captured from a single position in space meaning there is no sense of depth during video playback. Stereo is where the video was captured from two positions and each eye in the VR will see a slightly different image, providing depth and distance in the video. The third type is Equirectangular which captures and playbacks a 360 view in a rectangular photo frame. Lastly, there is FOVAS (Field of View Adaptive Streaming) which is where only the content needed is presented in front of the user’s eyes in order to make the most of a reduced network bandwidth. The rest of the 360 view is lower quality and as the user moves their head, different areas are loaded.

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