The NBA and Turner Sports partnered with NextVR’s video streaming service to deliver the first NBA VR video livestream ever last night, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in VR.
Last night marks the opening of the 2015-16 NBA season, and VR enthusiasts were there to watch the Golden State Warriors take on the New Orleans Pelicans exclusively through NextVR’s Samsung Gear VR app.
Much like NextVR’s Democratic debate livestream earlier this month, there were several vantage points available to help queue you into the action, which was broadcast live in 3D 180-degrees to Gear VR headsets, including both Note 4 and S6/S6 Edge devices.
NextVR, a company that has made a commitment to stream professional sports in VR, first captured a virtual reality basketball game when the Warriors took on the Denver Nuggets at Oracle Arena back during the 2013-14 NBA season. The company also later captured highlights from the NBA All-Star Game and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night.
I sat through the entire 3D 180-degree broadcast, which proved to be smooth and high enough quality to follow the action. We’ve seen that the choice to limit the FOV to 180 degrees is actually a keen decision on NextVR’s part, allowing them to deliver a higher quality forward-facing experience due to standard household bandwidth.
Considering the size of the basketball court—a space traditionally 94 feet by 50 feet—it made for an exciting way to watch the game from a much more realistic POV than you would get watching it on a traditional monitor. I attribute this to a small-ish playing field and a ball-size big enough to easily recognize given the Gear VR Note’s 1250 x 1440 per-eye resolution (or the S6’s 1280 x 1440 per-eye resolution).
And the cherry on top the cake: people-watching. If you’ve ever been to a live game, you know half of the fun is in observing all the weirdos around you. Halftime break dancers, drum lines and all the trappings of live performances accompanied the broadcast, including a certain cameraman that stole most of the show—all making for a memorable 2 hours; no comparison to the CNN’s recent acerbic political debate.
And in the end, I can’t profess that I’m the most avid NBA fan, but with a solid background of years of drunken collegiate March Madness behind me, I can say with certainty that NextVR truly captured the closest experience I’ve ever had of watching a live basketball game in VR.