Introduced at VidCon 2017 last June, Google’s VR180 video and photo format for VR isn’t yet being used in shipping products. But with its first hardware launch scheduled for early May, Google hopes to expand VR180’s footprint by announcing that the format is now open to any developer or manufacturer, along with a promise to release VR180 publishing and display tools.

Part of the announcement focuses on explaining how VR180 content works, including GitHub code for developers. On the video side, VR180 extends the fisheye lens-friendly Spherical Video Metadata V2 standard, adding a Camera Motion Metadata Track to optionally stabilize the video after capture. Photos are written in the backward-compatible VR Photo Format, which keeps the left eye’s image as a panoramic JPEG that can be displayed by any JPEG viewer, while right eye and audio data is stored as metadata.

Above: VR180

Image Credit: Google

Critically, Google is promising “tools that help with writing appropriately formatted VR180 photos and videos and playing it back.” These seemingly necessary bits of software are said to be arriving in “the coming months.”

Hopefully, Google has May on its release horizon. Lenovo’s upcoming Mirage Camera based upon VR180 is slated to arrive between May 4 and 6 for $300, and it could benefit from broader VR180 support. It was announced at the same time as a rival product called the Yi Horizon, which still has a date of “coming soon” and no price. The cameras both feature dual 13-megapixel fisheye lenses and the ability to record or livestream VR videos.