HoloTube, a new unofficial YouTube app for the Microsoft HoloLens, brings a whole bunch of new content to the mixed reality headset. While it's nice to have, the experience feels focused on quantity, not quality.
HoloTube has a simple interface most people will recognize. You get a page of video categories, and as you drill down through each option you're presented with videos to watch. You can view regular, flat videos on the wall (or wherever you like)—which has its merits.
But the most interesting and premise of the app is the ability to use the HoloLens to watch 360 degree videos, and that's exactly where the problems arise.
Here's what our experience was like:
While our experience on the HoloLens wasn't great, keep in mind that YouTube's 360º video selection is designed for use in virtual reality interfaces. It works better in a virtual environment because you're not really supposed to see anything but the video.
That aside, the quality and resolution of the available videos is rather poor across the board, so it feels like you're zoomed in way too far. Everything appears too close so that you see too many compressed pixels and not enough of the actual video. The video above demonstrates this situation, but in experience it's far worse than the recordings suggest.
That's not to say HoloTube is a bad app. It has a few bugs, but it's also running on unfinished hardware with an unfinished operating system. The content it has access to, however, just doesn't make for a very pleasant viewing experience.
2D videos work just fine (when they actually load), but if you want to watch something designed to be experienced in a headset you'll probably end up feeling more frustrated and lost than anything else.
The road to the future is a bumpy one. While YouTube might be great in a holographic world someday, we're not there just yet.
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