nextvrVirtual Reality has the power to transport you to anywhere in the world, and NextVR has been one of the leaders of giving you a front row seat to live sporting events including hockey, boxing, NASCAR, basketball, soccer, and golf. NextVR recently signed a five-year deal with FOX Sports, who have the rights to broadcast the NFL, Major League Baseball, and the U.S. Open Golf Championship.

I caught up with NextVR’s VR evangelist Helen Situ at GDC talk about the highlights of the past year of their livestream VR broadcasts, and where they’re going next. They’ve been experimenting with a lot of different camera positions, broadcasting real-time binaural audio, augmenting the experience with graphical overlays, and exploring how to give the viewer more agency in choosing the different perspectives that are available.

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I think that live streaming is going to be one of the more compelling use cases for VR that will help bring it to the masses, and one indications of this is that there are more broadcasters starting to stream live sporting events. It was announced this week that the NCAA Final Four & championship games will be livestreamed to the Gear VR by NCAA March Madness Live, which is managed by Turner Sports, partnered with CBS and Oculus, and has sponsorship from Capital One. Here’s more instructions for installing the Gear VR app. These semi-final VR broadcasts happen on Saturday April 2nd, and the championship is Monday, April 4th.

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NextVR to Broadcast Liverpool FC Friendly Match to US-based Oculus Go & Gear VR Users

NextVR has been a pioneer in VR livestreaming, and they expect that the content offerings will be compelling enough that sports fans will be willing to pay to have a front-row seat within virtual reality. David Nathanson is the head of business operations for FOX Sports, and he was quoted as saying, “For sponsors there will be naturally an opportunity to create immersive opportunities whether it’s pre-roll video, banners, VR commercial units, or integrating brands into the experiences we create. It’s uncharted territory.”

NextVR has been experimenting with VR livestream transmissions for over a year now, and had their first live sports broadcast to VIP tents during last year’s US Open Golf Tournament. Now that they have a five-year contract with FOX Sports, then you can expect to see a lot more premium content in the future delivered on all of the major VR platforms including Google Cardboard, Gear VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and even Sony PlayStationVR.

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  • cobrasixtysix

    This is going to be massive. I don’t think people are aware just how massive just yet, but they will. The possibilities are mind-blowingly endless and it’s knocking at our front door. I’m excited!

  • For people not wanting to isolate from world there is a new technology called Ultra-D, you can see holographic images on TVs, without to use a headset.

  • TaxPayer

    This is going to be sooooo good. Cant wait to watch a UFC event with this.

  • dotsmada

    I’ve watched a few of the NextVR events and agree they are awesome. Unfortunately, can’t watch the Final Four since they don’t have it available for the Note 4 and the older edition of the GearVR which really pisses me off. As far as how successful it will be I think it’s all based on pricing. If they charge like it’s a pay per view event ($50) then I’m sure most will just watch it on their big screen 4k TV. Although I do like watching events in VR, I don’t know if I’d be willing to pay for it. I’d rather there be adds just like regular live tv events. I guess if there’s enough content eventually I may be willing to pay a subscription for it.

  • Sam Illingworth

    Hmm, the problem with watching sport in VR is that you can’t easily get your phone out and look at other stuff or play games when there’s nothing interesting happening in the sport.

    What they should do is add in little games you can play on top of the stream, along with all the obvious AR stuff you’d want – live stats, computer analysis, breaking news from other events, etc.

    • BranchDavidianStyle

      Sort of a picture-in-picture idea for VR? Initially, upon reading your comment, my eyes started rolling, but then they quickly rolled back when I realized how effective this would be. Maybe something like viewing your emails or having a live chat while the game is going.

      • TaxPayer

        I agree, people now a days need constant “action” so being able to read emails, texts, etc.. as well as “p n p” , highlights…. would be huge. i like the idea.

      • Sam Illingworth

        Yeah, you could just have picture-in-picture, as it were – have a virtual iPad or something to read your emails, play little games, etc, but I was thinking of AR-style games, set within the virtual environment.

        Say you’re getting bored watching the cricket, for example, you could have a virtual bucket appear stuck to the bowler’s head and the game is to throw virtual balls of screwed up paper into it, Guyball style. That’s just an off-the-top-of-my-head suggestion, obviously people would come up with better ideas!

        I also thing VR must be great for all the computer graphics currently added onto traditional sports broadcasts. Things like Hawkeye in the tennis, for example, but where the user can turn it on and off at will.

  • Hilary’s Black Dad

    The quality of the video (even filmed at 4k) still looks like it was shot on a early-2000 sony cybershot – the tech is still a ways back from matching the quality of shot with an iphone 6 in 2D. Fingers crossed tho!