The Difference Between 360 and Virtual Reality


One trend that has occurred in the virtual reality community is the mistaking of 360 video for the revolutionizing platform of virtual reality. Visually, a 360 video and a virtual reality designed video have many similarities. 360-degree video is of course an aspect of both, lending to the sense of depth and immersion that is gained by viewing it. With both, you can slip on a pair of goggles and drag around to see the environment. The difference between the two is that there is an even greater sense of immersion with virtual reality video. A virtual reality experience is obtained through the use of multiple controls that provide that “real” experience, such as haptics, audio, and motion tracking. The Oculus Rift is one such device that provides a virtual reality experience by using the mentioned controls and more.

Let Me Explain…

To further get my point across, here are a few examples 360 and virtual reality videos, games, and apps.

  • SpongeBob (360 Degree Video) – How to Blow a Bubble Technique

This quirky, funny video is an example of a 360-degree video suitable for regular viewing. While cute, the video quality was slow and I was not able to click and drag throughout the video.

  • Invasion! Sneak Peek 360

This video was specifically designed for VR viewing on a headset.

  • Catatonic

This horror movie-like suspense of this VR experience is perfect for viewing in 360, 3D stereoscopic video.

  • Waves of Grace

An award-winning documentary shot in 360 that is even better when viewing in virtual reality.


This video falls under the category of 360, but not virtual reality, without the ability to watch it on a VR platform or app.

Becoming VR

Watching 360 video is an awesome, experience but watching a 360 panoramic videos in virtual reality is even more amazing. Here are the technical specs that take 360 spherical panoramas to the next level.

  • High Refresh rates and low persistence displays
  • Motion tracking system to track head and eye movements
  • Integrated, crisp audio
  • Haptics or tactile control to mimic real objects in the game

All of these controls working together – sight, touch, sound, balance – lend the user a sense of being in a real environment. The Oculus Rift and other VR headsets include many of the controls mentioned. They take 360 video to a more immersive level for enjoyable viewing.