YouTube works toward ‘melt my brain’ virtual reality

In his first interview as the video empire’s engineering chief, Matthew Mengerink discusses virtual reality, making money and stepping into the role during trying times for YouTube’s engineers.

Soon after Matthew Mengerink became YouTube’s engineering chief a few weeks back, he got a taste of the virtual reality footage Google has been working on but hasn’t released to the public yet.

“I saw stuff that just melted my brain,” Mengerink said Tuesday in his first interview since joining the Google-owned video site.

Mengerink won’t go into detail about what he saw but gives general examples of the kinds of things VR can do, like taking you cycling through the Alps while you’re really just on your exercise bike. Or letting you stomp around the city pretending to be Godzilla. The world’s top tech companies, from Facebook to Samsung, have become enamored with virtual reality. Once mostly the dream of video game makers, Silicon Valley has expanded the vision for the technology.

“That’s the future technology of YouTube,” said Mengerink. “Those are the table stakes: How do you change the way people look at things?” That’s probably not exactly what the site’s 1 billion monthly visitors expect of YouTube. The juggernaut video service, which Google acquired in 2006, is known for its massive haul of cat videos, sports rants and makeup tutorials. But all of that is evolving as the site expands and becomes more ambitious.

On Wednesday, Google is launching YouTube Red, a subscription version of the service that nixes the ads and gives you access to original shows and movies from top YouTube talent for $10 a month. In August, Google launched YouTube Gaming, a hub dedicated to video game-related content. Google, which formed Alphabet as a new holding company for all its properties earlier this month, also plans to place the streaming media site at the heart of its virtual reality efforts. YouTube remained under Google in the reorganization.

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