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The Rio Olympics Will Be Broadcast in VR

If there were ever a sporting event to prove VR broadcasting’s worth, it’s the Olympics. Fortunately, the tech will have its shot at the imminent games in Rio.

NBC has confirmed that it will be broadcasting a total of 85 hours of this year’s games in VR. Thanks to a partnership with Samsung, you’ll get to watch both the opening and closing ceremonies as well as a host of events like the finals and semi-finals of men’s basketball, gymnastics, track and field, beach volleyball, diving, boxing, and fencing in 360 degrees, with full control over where you look as if you were there yourself. Footage will be captured by Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS).

As the Samsung deal suggests, you’ll be able to watch that content through the Gear VR mobile headset after downloading the NBC Sports app. Despite the company’s partnership with Oculus, it doesn’t sound like you’ll be able to watch on the Rift. Sadly, it also doesn’t sound like these videos will be livestreamed; events will be presented “on delay” and the opening ceremony won’t be posted until the day after it has taken place, Aug. 6th. New content will be posted throughout the games, which close on Aug. 21st. The closing ceremony will also be posted the day after.

Even with the delay, we’re sure tuning into 360 degree Olympic events will be well worth it. We’re particularly looking forward to being able to breathe in a stadium’s atmosphere as big events kick off.

VR livestreaming, meanwhile, is possible, though still something of a technical challenge, so it makes sense that NBC would favor delaying footage and making sure it’s up to a high quality rather than risking constant issues during the event. Neither Samsung nor NBC said what camera is being used for filming, so we don’t know if content will be available in 3D or 2D, though it’s most likely the latter.

Still, this is an important first step for VR broadcasting, and we’d expect to be able to watch all of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in four years’ time.

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