Today I want to write an article about VeeR, a platform dedicated to 360 photos and videos made by a Chinese company. They’re doing a quite big marketing push: at least 3 people from the company have contacted me in a week, asking me to write a review about it: in the end I surrendered and I agreed on trying their product (Chinese people are about 1 billion, if I continued ignoring their requests, I don’t know how many people could have written me!).
So, what is VeeR? It is a platform to create, edit and share 360° videos and photos. If you’re thinking “so it is like Youtube”, I agree with you. Basically yes, but also a bit no. Yes because, as Youtube, it allows you to create and share your 360 videos and see their analytics. No because Veer also allows you to share photos and because it tries to be a complete ecosystem dedicated to 360 videos, with various features specifically dedicated to them. Furthermore, being Chinese, VeeR is accessible also behind the Great Firewall: so if you are in China and want to watch some awesome 360 content, you know where you can find it. This positioning in the Chinese market has helped them in establish various partnerships with big companies that want to perform marketing operations in China. The problem is, in my opinion, that outside China, this framework has to fight with giants as Youtube and Facebook that already offer similar features.
Anyway, VeeR has some cool features that IMHO are worth talking about. First of all, it is a cross-platform experience: it currently works on mobile (Android, iOS), mobile VR headsets (GearVR, Mi), web, Viveport and support for other platforms (Oculus and PSVR) is coming. This is great because it lets as many people as possible try their application. Furthermore, they have tried to create a seamless experience between the various devices, with the UX being similar on all platform, with only some differences to optimize the UX on every one of them. Great job.
Another thing that I loved is that they’re trying to create a complete ecosystem for content creators: there is VeeR Editor, that lets you edit and create easily 360 videos that you can then share on VeeR platform or on social media; VeeR VR lets you enjoy content, comment it and share it on social media; VeeR Hotspot (still not released) will let you make interactive videos, letting you create virtual tours for instance; Heat Map lets you, the content creator, analyze the appealing of your video to the public, highlighting which portions of the videos have been watched the most. As you can see, this is a complete ecosystem that spans from content creation to customization, sharing, and analysis. This is something that in part still lacks from the features offered by Youtube (even if Youtube already offers 360 video sharing and heat map analytics and will surely invest in the other features, too).
I gave a try to some of the features of VeeR and I came out with pretty mixed impressions.
The experience of VeeR viewer is optimal on mobile. You just download the app, install it and when you launch it, a little tutorial starts and shows you in 15 seconds the most important features of the app and how to use it. After that, everything is very simple: you select the videos that you want to see and then you watch them. You can easily find 360 videos and watch them just by rotating around your phone to see them from every angle. Of course, there’s also a VR mode that you can activate by pressing the little cardboard icon that there is on the screen: after you activate the VR mode, you can put your phone inside a Cardboard viewer and then enjoy your video in VR! Everything is super easy. The UI is the standard one of a video player, with buttons to play/pause, change the volume, restart the video, etc…
The Web experience is good as well, as long as you are not a VR enthusiast. The VeeR website is just like Youtube/Vimeo/etc… with the only difference that there are more comments in Chinese below the videos. You can move around the 360 videos by dragging your mouse over the video, exactly as in Youtube and all other players. The problems begin when you want to play a video in VR inside your headset (e.g. Oculus Rift): clicking the VR button just splits the screen in two but doesn’t broadcast anything to the headset (at least it didn’t happen for me). I tried with Firefox, Edge and also Opera, that recently added a nice feature to see 360 videos in VR, but with no luck. So bad. Anyway, I loved the fact that there is also a section dedicated to sharing 360 photos, even if I have to say that they’re not all high-quality ones as in Round me, but this is normal because this is a sharing application, while Round Me is a platform for content creators to buy and sell high-quality photos.
The big plus side of the Veer website is its blog, where you can find tons of interesting posts about 360 videos and photos: tutorials, selection of bests apps, best practices, reviews and interviews to important people of the field. There are a lot of articles published each week, so if you’re passionate about VR storytelling, be sure to give a look at it once in a while.
My experience with the Steam app has instead been ridiculous at the beginning. First of all the Veer app inside Steam appears having only Oculus as the supported headset: this is REEEEEAAAAALLLYYYY weird, considering that HTC Vive is the main device on SteamVR! I think that it is the only app with this feature on the whole Steam ecosystem. It doesn’t even use SteamVR… it is an app for Oculus runtime published on Steam (weird, weird, weird). Also, reviews on it are very very strange, with people writing random comments highlighting how it works well on Cardboard (but… we’re on Steam for PC!) and how there are great games in it (WTF??? This is a video app!!!).
I installed and launched it, but nothing happened. I tried restarting the services but nothing changed. The first time I managed to launch it, it opened the 2D mirror window on my PC, that was responsive to the commands of the headset and controllers, but nothing showed on my headset screen! So basically I tried it in 2D with the headset on my forehead acting as a mouse. The app was completely in Chinese (WOW) and tried to emulate somewhat the experience on mobile. What I found interesting in this Desktop VR version is the initial 3D menu: when you say that you want to explore the videos, you’re presented with a lot of 3D icons that represent the video categories: clicking on them, you can see the videos of that category. I loved this idea because VR is 3D and I think that 3D immersive menus (as the ones of Face Your Fears and Sneaky Bears VR) are the future of the UX inside virtual reality. Kudos to them on this side. The problem is that after this initial 3D menu, the interface becomes a standard 2D one… I think they should try to innovate that, too!
After a complete PC restart I managed to try the Steam application in VR, in English: who knows what happened at the first execution… maybe it’s my PC to blame, maybe there’s still some bug. I continued appreciating the 3D menu, but I didn’t appreciate the input scheme: the app doesn’t exploit Oculus Touch controllers, but only gaze, as if it was executed on a Gear VR. This is uncomfortable in my opinion. Furthermore, I haven’t still got how I should close a video to return to the main menu. So, the experience on PC still needs various fixes to be truly interesting.
VeeR Editor works only on mobile and lets you easily create 360 videos. It can connect to most 360 cameras or use videos that are already on your phone. You can take various videos and photos and put one after the other to compose your final video. You can then easily add a background music, with VeeR giving you already a set of nice songs that you can use out of the box. You can apply filters to the video and also add some cute animated emojis in specific parts of the video, at specific times. You can also add text labels.
I found the editor very very easy to be used and very effective. I created in minutes a stupid 360 video, with labels, music, and emojis. On this side, the app is fantastic. And the fact that you can easily add emojis and labels makes it ready for a social experience, where you can easily share 360 videos with friends, adding cool elements over it, as now happens with Instagram or Snapchat for instance. When the future will be completely immersive, with all people having an XR glass in front of their eyes, these will be the new kind of media shared between people on social networks. On the other side, you have to consider that this is an editor dedicated to the general consumer and not to the professional: if you have to do professional video editing, you have to use a more professional application. Anyway, on the consumer side, to easily create videos to be shared on social media (and VeeR platform as well, that can be considered as a sort of social media platform) it is just awesome. I’ve been impressed by the ability to create 360 videos so easily on my mobile phone.
This is my experience with VeeR viewer and editor. My final impression is that on mobile it is a wonderful product on both sides, while on the other platforms there’s something that must be improved. My real worry for it is that it has to fight the competition of huge giants as Youtube and Facebook, but maybe the fact that they’re also dedicated to the Chinese market can save them.
If you want to try VeeR by yourself, go to its website and discover how to download it… then let me know your impressions of it in the comments section!
UPDATE: look in the comment section to read the official answer of Viki from VeeR to my article
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