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.

nba next vr

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.

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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).

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nba nextvr breakdancers

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.

nba nextvr cameramanAnd 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.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • anthonyjonesdavid

    Going in, I wasnt expecting to like it too much. The NBA had realeased content on the Gear VR and I hadnt been impressed. But this was much better. I loved it, and cant wait till the resolution is 1080p-ish and the option for commentary acompanies the broadcast. I did have several freezes throughout the game, and there was nowhere to see the score or player stats. But for a first live-stream NBA game it was awesome!

  • vrgamerdude

    This has reaffirmed my belief that in the near future VR will replace traditional forms of broadcasting! I captured a small bit of video for my YouTube channel if anyone reading this is interested in seeing what it was like. █-)

    • kalqlate

      “…VR is about to change all that. For the first time, we are going to be able to go anywhere we want, do anything we want! I-I-I, This-this is great! This changes everything!”

      Absolutely! Thanks for sharing!

      Over the next couple of years, VR telepresence will prove itself to be the killer VR app as it will be embedded in all types of applications, particularly chat apps. Affordable 360 VR capture for the masses provided by devices like Bubl and Kodak Pixpro SP360-4K will help to make it so.

  • kalqlate

    “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.”

    Currently then, they are streaming the full 180 degree video to all viewers and letting the headset extract out the portion that is limited to the FOV of the device, centered on the viewers gaze.

    Streaming as much as 180 degrees is great as it allows quick head movements from side to side, but they could also provide a “higher-res” mode in which the viewer is instructed to move their gaze more slowly. This would provide time for the back end servers to extract up to 120 degrees FOV from the full 180 (or potentially 360) in high-res, centered on where an individual is gazing. Being that 120 degrees is greater than the current limit of most VR HMDs, the headset would be continually supplied with enough spare FOV that slow side to side movements would give the viewer an uninterrupted, high-res experience. Switching between modes could be done with a fast held tilt or other method.