YouTube Adds A “Play In 3D” Option Across Its Site

Last September, YouTube began offering new tools that allowed users to convert their uploaded 2D videos into 3D videos with just a click. That feature, which has been in beta testing, was available only to YouTube creators at the time. Today, YouTube is rolling out the beta to all of YouTube’s users – creators and viewers alike – by offering the option to automatically convert short-form videos that were uploaded in 1080p to 3D.

In other words, viewers no longer have to wait on YouTube creators to convert their videos into 3D – you can now do it yourself.

The new 3D option will be available in the “Quality” settings of the uploaded video (look for the gear icon).

YouTube’s system doesn’t involve traditional 3D video capturing techniques using two simultaneously captured videos, of course. It’s a software hack that’s meant to convert regular 2D video into 3D using a number of techniques, which are described in more detail on YouTube’s blog.

For example, the technology uses a combination of video characteristics like color, spatial layout, and motion to estimate depth. It then uses machine learning processes to improve depth estimations as the number of 3D videos on YouTube increase.

The end result is a 3D video, which, while not as good as a video that was shot in true 3D, is still good enough to work…if you feel like popping silly glasses on your face and loading up some YouTube, that is.

The work needed on the backend to make something like this is possible is impressive – YouTube talks of the cloud computing scalability involved here – but the project was initially¬†kicked off in the hopes that the 3D would become the next big video trend for casual video viewing. Whether that’s actually the case remains to be seen. It’s one thing to watch an award-winning movie like “Avatar,” it’s quite another to think, “wow, I really need to see that kitten in 3D.”

Well, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe 3D kitten videos are the future.

We’ll know more after the feature has been live across YouTube for some time. Adoption statistics, assuming they’re ever revealed, won’t lie.