NBC gets into VR, Getty goes 360
Athletes in Rio will compete to be the fastest sprinter and highest jumper at the Olympics this August. But there’s another test underway as well: How well can virtual reality capture sporting events?
Expect to see virtual-reality content, along with 360-degree video and images. NBC, which has television and online rights in the U.S., plans 85 hours of VR coverage through the NBC Sports app on Samsung’s Gear VR headset. VR events will include opening and closing ceremonies, men’s basketball, gymnastics and track and field. They will typically be shown on a one-day delay.
NBC says it will provide 85 hours of virtual reality programming during the Rio Olympics in August — though only to users of Samsung Galaxy smartphones and the Samsung Gear VR headset. It’s the first time Olympics programming will be available in VR.
Virtual reality coverage of sports, essentially 360 video, has been growing since VR headsets such as the Samsung Gear and Oculus Rift became widely available earlier this year. Sports broadcasters are betting that virtual reality will be the next big game-changing way to watch sports. But right now, the audience is limited to those that have smartphones and VR headsets, which can be pricey.
Still, coverage is growing. In May, NBC broadcast the Kentucky Derby in 360 video. The NBA has broadcast some of its games in virtual reality, and Fox Sports broadcast VR streams from the U.S. Open at Oakmont in June.
Getty, the Olympics’ official photography agency, equally, launched a virtual-reality division in June to focus on 360-degree images. Getty shot some 360-degree images at the London Olympics in 2012 as the technology was emerging. This time in Rio, every Getty photographer will have a 360-degree camera.
“We are only on the cusp of what will be a tectonic plate shift in VR,” Getty CEO Dawn Airey said.
Meanwhile, Facebook’s Oculus VR business, which developed the technology behind Gear VR, plans to showcase more than 400 360-degree images from various photographers. It will be available through the Oculus 360 Photos app on Gear VR and Oculus’ own Rift headset.