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This Week In VR Sports: Higher Resolutions All Around

Fifa World Cup 2018 in VR, real-time VR and NBA Finals.
VRFocus is back once again to bring you another entry of This Week In VR Sport. With a number of sports related virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) stories, this week has a theme of looking to the future at bigger, better and more immersive quality content. The BBC reveal their plans to provide Ultra HD and VR coverage of the Fifa World Cup 2018, UAE deliver the first real-time, 360-degree VR broadcast and NextVR release a new high-resolution format alongside highlights from the NBA Finals.

BBC To Show World Cup 2018 In Ultra HD & VR

BBC VR World Cup 2018

Ahead of the upcoming Fifa World Cup 2018 in Russia, BBC Sport have announced that they will be able to enjoy the event in Ultra HD and VR in new trials of the technology. This will include a fully immersive stadium experience which will be put the viewer into their own hospitality box thanks to the power of head-mounted displays (HMDs). All 33 matches that will be broadcast by the BBC will be available to watch for free on the BBC Sport’s VR 2018 World Cup application. 29 of those matches will be shown on BBC One in Ultra HD as well.

The Ultra HD experience will be access through a high-speed internet connection and will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis. The HD stream will be available to watch from BBC iPlayer as soon as programme coverage beings but users will be limited to “tens of thousands of people”. Those wanting to have the optimum viewing experience are encouraged to have a 40 megabit per second (Mbps) internet connection.

Matthew Postgate, BBC chief technology & product officer, said: “From the very first tournament on TV in 1954 and England’s finest hour in 1966, to the first colour World Cup in 1970 and then full HD in 2006, the BBC has brought major live broadcasting breakthroughs to UK audiences throughout the history of the World Cup. Now, with these trials we’re giving audiences yet another taste of the future.”

The VR app will be made available in the coming weeks for iOS and Android devices along with a release on Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Go and PlayStation VR.

UAE Creates History With Live VR Telecast Of Football

Arabian Gulf League

By taking advantage of the latest technology and a dedicated 600 Mbps connection, video feeds from camera rigs of up to five cameras were captured and stitched together into one single 360-degree video in real time, being distributed to viewers with low-latency. This achievement was made possible by Spanish broadcaster and producer Mediapro, UAE telco Etisalat and, most importantly, the UAE Pro League Committee (PLC) and premiered at the final of the UAE Arabian Gulf Cup at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain.

Viewer were able to download the Etisalat’s AGL VR Seat Experience app, which is available on both iOS and Android, and immersive themselves in a virtual VIP seat where they were able to take in the full excitement of the match. The broadcast of course required a lot of planning and work on the day to ensue that the five camera wre stitched together into a single 360-degree video in real time.

Ammar Hina, TV Broadcast and Production Director at PLC, recalls: “We at PLC launched our strategy two seasons ago. Part of this strategy was to work more intensively on technology to redefine the audience experience of live football. The idea for broadcasting in VR also came two seasons ago.”

The project started back in 2017 were the team was tasked with designing the workflow to allow for this broadcast to take place. One of the biggest roadblocks for the event was the bandwidth required. For the VR requirement and the multiple camera rigs that were being used a strong connection was needed. The end result was a dedicated connection with a minimum of 600 Mbps that was offered by Etisalat, a long-time partner of PLC.

Humaid Sahoo, CEO of E-Vision, the broadcasting arm of Etisalat, said: “We are delighted to partner with the Pro League Committee to unveil the region’s first virtual reality app to broadcast live football matches, enabling our consumers to experience the thrill of the games from the comfort of their homes.”

The premiere of this solution was a success and the parties plan to use it more in the future. VRFocus will be sure to bring you all the latest on this story as it develops.

NextVR and NBA Digital To Feature The 2018 NBA Finals

NextVR NBA FInals

Lastly this week, NBA Digital and NextVR will give fans a chance to see the highlights of the 2018 NBA Finals featuring the Golden State Warriors vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers for free, available on-demand in VR. Alongside this, NextVR are also making a new high-resolution format publicly available that will deliver the most realistic and immersive VR experience to date.

The day following each game of the Finals, fans will be able to access the highlights in the NBA Finals channel within the NextVR application and see the key moments from the games in stunning VR. The new high-resolution format will deliver increased resolution and sharpness to head-mounted displays on all existing VR platforms, with higher-end displays such as the HTC Vive Pro realizing the most dramatic impact for fans’ viewing pleasure.

“Improving fidelity and realism is critical for the success of virtual reality media. This upgraded format adds detail, sharpness and enhanced 3D depth to our broadcasts, greatly increasing realism and overall sense of presence,” said David Cole, NextVR co-founder and CEO. “While all users will see an immediate improvement, this only scratches the surface of the capabilities of this format and our technology platform. More advanced headsets slated to ship in the future will take even greater advantage of this new VR broadcast technology.”

Fans using the NextVR app on headsets such as the HTC Vive Pro and Samsung Odyssey will be able to enjoy the most visually stunning VR experience to date, with other platforms seeing a range of benefits from the new high-resolution format. The NextVR app is available now on Oculus Go, PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, HTC Vive Pro, Windows Mixed Reality, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Daydream.

That is all for This Week In VR Sport. For more on immersive sport news keep reading VRFocus and remember to check back next week for another This Week In VR Sport.

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