How To Be In Rio For The Games Without Leaving Your Home
By Eline Kimmel
Even after the Euro Soccer Cup, Wimbledon and the Tour de France, this sports filled summer is far from over we’re deep into the Rio Olympic Games right now. And for the first time ever, this edition of the largest sporting event in the world has partnered up with the still relatively new technology of virtual reality to make audiences feel as if they’re actually in the stadium.
For their US audiences, NBC Sports announced a partnership with Samsung to deliver virtual reality content of the Games to viewers at home. In total, 85 hours of this content is expected to be made available for viewers. Included in these hours are the opening and closing ceremonies, men’s basketball, including the semifinals and the final, gymnastics, track and field, beach volleyball, diving, boxing and fencing. In addition, highlights of these sports will be offered in VR as well.
If you want to experience these sports as if you were in the stadium yourself, there are a couple of things you need. First of all, as the partnership is with Samsung, you will need one of their newer smartphones that are compatible with the ‘Samsung Gear VR’. Secondly, you obviously need to have such a Samsung Gear headset. Lastly, you need the NBC Sports app to access the special VR section of the coverage. These limitations put a real damper on the size of the potential audience for this special coverage. Still, this marks the first time that the Olympics and VR have been combined, so the only direction for the market share of this type of coverage is up. Moreover, sports seem to be one of the most interesting applications for the combination of virtual reality and television coverage. After all, immersing oneself into the game is one of the most fun aspects of watching sports. Apart from actually being physically present at the stadium, virtual reality seems the best alternative to achieving this immersive experience.
As a testament to the early stages that VR technology for the masses is still in, the virtual reality content of the selected sporting games will only be made available 24 hours after the events originally take place. This allows the technicians to fine tune the virtual reality coverage. Although this belated coverage is a real drawback for an event that is best experienced in real time, this fine tuning does allow for the coverage to be accessible from a full 360º rather than from the earlier 180º that was used for previous events such as for one of this year’s Democratic Presidential Nominees debates.
The Olympic Museum & VR
Broadcasting some of the sporting matches in virtual reality is not the only connection of the technology with this year’s Olympics. In the city of Rio de Janeiro, visitors have the chance to embark on a virtual reality tour of the Games when they visit the ‘Museu Cidade Olimpica‘ (the Olympics museum). Through virtual reality, visitors can experience some of the most impressive Olympic venues, as well as having a virtual aerial view of the city of Rio de Janeiro. For this part of the museum, the guests will receive a special headset, making this specific Olympic virtual reality experience a little more accessible to people, as long as they have the opportunity to visit the museum.
The Olympics provide an interesting case study for seeing the practical implications of virtual reality that has been a buzz word for so long. As more and more applications of the technology become available for the masses, the technology is finally seen to fulfill some of its longstanding promises of being the next big thing. After all, in 2012 at the London Olympics, Oculus Rift was not even raising money for its headset yet. Now, in 2016, virtual reality coverage of the Olympics has become available, even if it is just for a small group of viewers. It might not be too crazy to think that virtual reality devices will become one of the primary ways to watch the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Eline Kimmel is a contributing author to VR Voice.