Rio Olympics 2016: BBC launches ‘experimental’ VR app for sports footage

The BBC is launching an “experimental” virtual reality service for the Rio 2016 Olympics, set to roll out this Friday.

Footage from the Olympics will be broadcast to UK audiences in 360-degree video format for the first time through the BBC Sport 360 service, which is available from August 5.

To access the service, you’ll need to download the BBC Sport 360 trial app, which is available from today on Android, iOS, and Samsung Gear VR. You can also watch the 360-degree coverage online through BBC Taster, a recently launched website that lets you “try, rate, and share new ideas from the BBC”.

“The BBC delivered the first truly digital Olympics for London 2012 and we’ve continued to develop and improve our digital service ever since,” said Justin Barritt, Executive Product Manager for BBC Sport. “Now, we’re pushing the boundaries once again to bring people closer to the action than ever before.”

Barritt added: “Not everyone can make it to Rio to cheer on Team GB so we’re looking forward to giving sport fans the next best thing.”

google cardboardGoogle Cardboard costs less than £10, and can be used to watch the BBC Sport 360 content

According to the BBC, the broadcaster will capture VR-ready footage of the opening and closing ceremonies, athletics, and a “closer-than-ringside view of the boxing”. The BBC has pledged to showcase live 360-degree video footage of an event each day during the games, amounting to around 100 hours in total. There will also be a choice of up to four different camera angles, as well as a daily 360-degree video highlights package.

Will Saunders, Editorial Lead at BBC Taster, said:

This is a hugely exciting next step in our 360 and virtual reality experiments. There’s huge potential for immersive video in sport coverage, as well as many other genres, and we want to explore that potential directly with audiences. That’s why we experiment out in the open, so people can tell us what works, what doesn’t, and whether there’s an appetite for more. We can’t wait to hear what people think.”

The news comes exactly one week after Sky announced its own Sky Sports virtual reality app, which is set to launch later this summer. The app is promised to be compatible with popular VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, the Samsung Gear VR, and Google Cardboard headsets. The media giant confirmed that it had experimented with Formula 1, Tour de France, and boxing footage, and revealed that a VR promo featurette that includes David Beckham will launch “at the end of August”.

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