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Virtual Reality – A not so distant future

Tuesday 21st June

In 2009, Tech-Zine Engadget proclaimed 3D TV had “a future so bright, we’ll have to wear shades”… How wrong they were!

By 2013 the BBC had shut down its 3D Production arm, citing that viewers found it too much of a turn-off to wear glasses to watch TV. Two years later in 2015 Sky scrapped its 3D channel, because of low demand vs. the high cost of producing shows in 3D.

Now the year is 2016, and I have just experienced my first taste of Virtual Reality gaming and I’m thinking of how amazing it would be to watch TV through a pair of VR goggles – despite looking like an idiot.VR1

In 2014, Palmer Luckey – founder of Oculus, claimed that “VR Devices would and should replace television sets”, and after my experience, I almost agree with him. If TV companies can find a way to give the viewer an experience as immersive as the VR gaming experience then they may just find the solution to the steady decline of young viewers.

In March of this year, Sky announced a “major new commitment” to Virtual Reality. “Over the coming months, Sky will transport fans of sports, movies, news and entertainment to locations around the world, offering a truly unique perspective on major events”. Having already released a taste of what’s to come through Facebook’s 360-degree video service, I’m keen to see what the future could hold.

However Sky isn’t the only company starting to turn its hand to VR films. The BBC’s R&D unit produced a 360-degree video of the migrant camp in Calais in June 2015, and the corporation’s technology show Click has created a 360-degree edition of the show.

Unlike the jump to 3D – which conceptually was a no-brainer – it’s hard to imagine a point where there is a fully immersive experience in a static narrative format such as TV. You can’t exactly leave the action on Game of Thrones to explore the virtual landscape of the Seven Kingdoms.

Unfortunately as it stands, Broadcast TV is far too complex an ecosystem for a director to control all of its angles at once. Sitcom sets with multi-camera setups, for instance, rely wholly on viewers not seeing the 180 degrees behind the cameras. However with sporting events, talk shows and game shows; being part of an observing crowd could be as exciting as the show itself.

So allow me to introduce NextVR – NextVR has developed a custom lens-to-lens system for capturing and delivering live and on-demand virtual reality experiences in true broadcast quality. With its patented technology, NextVR is the only company capable of transmitting live high definition, three-dimensional virtual reality content over the Internet delivering a completely immersive and life-like experience for the viewer – and all you need is your phone.

Samsung’s Gear VR (powered by Oculus), brings the world of VR into your phone, and as well as the handful of other games that have e been developed already, the NextVR app allows you to jump straight into the sporting action through their live broadcasts.VR2

Overall I am really looking forward to what the next year has in store for the world of VR – with the prices of kit coming down and VR now readily available through mobile phones, it’s just a matter of time before the major broadcasters jump on board.

However, whilst the examples of what can be achieved are impressive, the major drawback of VR for broadcasters is the cost. It seems for now, the idea watching TV using VR devices is a bit of a novelty, and the only way for TV companies to justify the extra production costs to make all content VR compatible is to slap a hefty price tag on the premium content. A price tag a younger audience would be reluctant to pay.

Article Written by

Alex Barrett

Broadcast Buyer, Total Media

Alex is a Broadcast Buyer, working across OOH, radio, TV, VOD and cinema. He is a lover of TV, music, wine and cheese and can often be found on a sofa recovering from his latest box set binge.

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