Intel is helping viewers of the Winter Olympic Games view the action in virtual reality, showing live and on-demand video of 30 events from Pyeongchang.
The company is working with broadcasters Eurosport and NBC in order to implement its True VR platform, which allows users to select multiple viewing angles in select events.
For example, if you’re watching the speed skating, you can stream through VR headsets like the Samsung Gear VR or Oculus Rift, while picking a viewing angle at the starting line, turning corner, in the stands or at the finish line.
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Each event set to receive the VR treatment will feature at least three 4K stereoscopic pods, which are able to capture the athletes from 12 internal cameras. And within the broadcasts, viewers are still able to view real-time leaderboards and stats, bringing together an experience that Intel director Steve Shakespeare will create a more compelling and immersive experience for the user.
“We see this as a gateway to bring our technology to a developing platform and, really, we have a great opportunity to learn over the next eight years, with two Winter and two Summer Olympic Games, how we can grow the interest in the platform. With True VR in this scenario, you can see real-time broadcasts unfold right in front of you. If you’re watching the bobsledding, you can sit on the side in a live environment, almost like a court-side seat,” he said.
But with Intel’s technology being incorporated into both mobile and PC-based VR, the experience quality differs greatly depending on the user’s equipment.
“The reason we have both is because, in reality, we think that people are likely to do this with their smartphone in large volume,” Shakespeare says. “But if you have access to high quality devices like the the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, you can take advantage of the better quality. What we recognise, candidly, is that mobile VR is an important piece and first step for people.”
When accessing the platform, which is available to iOS and Android users through the NBC Sports VR or Eurosport VR app, things are fairly straightforward. If you’re using a Gear VR, for example, a cursor in the middle of the screen will be at the forefront of your navigation – holding your gaze over a panel for a few seconds will select it, and the panel on the side of the headset can also be used to control playback.
When changing camera angles or switching over to the leaderboard, the same interface is present, and generally things are simple to navigate. In truth, there’s nothing to it, and that’s exactly how these apps should be; it’s all about leading the user to water as fast as possible.
And interestingly, though Intel’s True VR platform is currently doing the rounds in South Korea, it isn’t the only sports event it has in the pipeline. The company already works with MLB and Spanish football’s La Liga to bring similar vantage points to user’s headsets, and Shakespeare notes that, while the Olympics are a great way to explore VR broadcasting, it’s not the only way.
Just where Intel ventures next next remains to be seen, but its work in Pyeongchang, and continued commitment with the International Olympic Committee, appears to be the stepping stones to changing how viewers interact with live sport. As Shakespeare told us, Intel’s view is that the book on VR isn’t yet on the first page – the prologue stage is still being written.
There’s no fixed time frame on when the technology is expected to expand, and, naturally, will largely depend on viewer interest, but we imagine that chapter one isn’t too far away.
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