If you thought virtual reality was still years away from becoming mainstream---you're probably right; but at least we can experience shades of this exciting technology now thanks to Youtube.

It wasn't too long ago when the popular streaming site decided to let loose the reigns on 4K content, a crafty move considering how rare content is for 4K TVs. However, with 360 video formats now enabled on a majority of its mobile and web platforms, a whole new world of possibilities are now available...literally.

Available with Time

Although content remains scarce, users can view select 360-degree videos through a variety of platforms including the Youtube Android app or on the main site. Desktop viewers can also use Google Chrome to navigate through content to simulate what would be seen through an augmented reality experience. Apple products such as the iPad and iPhone aren't supported yet, but should gain access in the future.

Working with a variety of cameras and manufacturers, Google is developing more streamlined methods of enabling capture and upload of content to Youtube. Additional features such as auto-detecting 360-degree video, improved search functionality and filtering effects will also be introduced in the future. Even with its limited features, a growing number of hardware and software platforms are supporting the format and current devices such as the Samsung Gear VR are edging their way towards full integration.

In addition to head-tracking goggles and gadgets, mobile apps like Fyuse can also take advantage of 360 video through "spatial photography" which captures dynamic photos by moving the camera during the session. Aiming to become the Instagram of 3D images, Fyuse and apps like it are paving the way for creatives to develop the exact type of content tech enthusiasts are searching for...and with enough time, perhaps we'll finally be able to retire that Viewmaster and say hello to real VR.