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Hot and Cold: Heatmaps in VR

By Frank Rodriguez

Product Manager

As creators, you're always thinking about new and unique experiences you can share with your audience. From prehistoric perspectives to epic battles, you've blazed a trail with VR to produce hundreds of thousands of videos that can transport viewers to far-off places and thrilling adventures.

When creating content in VR, it’s helpful to know what your viewers are focused on. Today we’re introducing heatmaps for 360-degree and VR videos with over 1,000 views, which will give you specific insight into how your viewers are engaging with your content. With heatmaps, you’ll be able to see exactly what parts of your video are catching a viewer’s attention and how long they’re looking at a specific part of the video.


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We want to help you create your next immersive video. So using this tool, we’ve done some early research on what makes an engaging 360-degree video. Here are a few findings:

  • Focus on what’s in front of you: The defining feature of a 360-degree video is that it allows you to freely look around in any direction, but surprisingly, people spent 75% of their time within the front 90 degrees of a video. So don’t forget to spend significant time on what’s in front of the viewer.
  • Get their attention: While a lot of time is spent focusing on what’s in front, for many of the most popular VR videos, people viewed more of the full 360-degree space with almost 20% of views actually being behind them. The more engaging the full scene is, the more likely viewers will want to explore the full 360-degree view. Try using markers and animations to draw attention to different parts of the scene.
  • Keep different experiences in mind: The context in which people are viewing VR videos matters too. Some might be watching on a mobile and portable Cardboard, while others are watching on a desktop computer. For instance, we found viewers usually need a couple seconds to get situated in Cardboard, which isn’t needed for other devices. So make sure to give your viewers a few seconds before jumping into the action.

We’re also excited to announce that for creators who want to go all in on VR and hone their skills, we’re launching our first ever VR intensive program at YouTube Space LA called the VR Creator Lab. Applications are open starting today.

It’s still early days in VR, and as we continue to add new tools to the platform, we’re excited to see all the awesome things you create.