Virtual reality and 360 videos continue to gain momentum, but one obstacle that could stop them in their tracks is the lack of an analytics standard.
Virtual reality or 360 video (synonymous for this post) deliver immersive experiences. If you have never consumed VR video, imagine standing inside a globe with content flowing all around you. 


Video analytics can be robust, but 360 introduces new challenges. Instead of a “lean back” experience, viewers of VR video take an active role in deciding where to focus. This means that success can’t be defined by views alone. Application Development & Delivery professionals will either need to develop their own analytics scheme or partner with a third party firm. 
In order to understand 360 analytics, we first need to understand the format. 360 video is captured by multiple cameras and stitched into a common resolution like 1920 by 1080 pixels. The flattened (or equirectangular) video allows you to see everything at once. In order to create an immersive VR experience, that flattened video is then wrapped around a sphere using special metadata. Viewers can focus on a sliver of the video at a single time. 
If your team is looking to deploy VR video, Application Development and Delivery professionals need to figure out how to define success. A few options might include:
  • Heatmapping the video. Similar to gaze tracking software, heatmapping the equirectangular video would allow you to see where viewers are looking and for how long. Are they focusing where you want them to or are they looking at something else? 
  • Measuring degrees viewed. Since the content is produced in 360 degrees, measuring the degrees viewed could tell you how engaged the viewer is. For example, in the video above, did you move around a lot to follow the seal lions? You could set parameters like:
0-180 degrees = low engagement
180-360 = medium engagement
>360 degrees = high engagement or that viewers are returning to certain areas of the video
VR video is all about creating an immersive experience and bringing viewers to another place. If you’re in the travel industry perhaps you’re showing potential customers your resort. With 360 analytics you might notice that viewers are focusing more on the beach than the restaurants. 
Facebook and YouTube already support 360 video and the format is ready for wider adoption. Like Mark Zuckerberg, I plan to use 360 video to capture important life milestones. I’ve been a big proponent of VR video, but without a new way to measure success, we won’t know what it looks like. 
If you’re an online video platform or a content creator, how are you measuring success? Tell me in the comments below.