On Saturday night I saw the future of sports broadcasting, and oh boy, broadband operators need to get ready for this! Fox Sports offered the Major League Soccer Championship game (aka MLS Cup) in Virtual Reality through their IOS and Android mobile application. I have a Samsung Gear VR and a Samsung Galaxy Edge 6 plus, and decided to give it a shot.
Now, I know what you are thinking - they probably just put the normal video feed in a VR window and that was the extent of it. Not so fast! If you haven't used the Fox Sports VR app before, the layout looks like the below screenshot:
The viewer can see the entire field with VERY good depth perception, and can select which camera angle that they want in real-time (for example during corner kicks I would switch to the goalie view, or if the ball went to the far side of the field, I would switch to that camera). As shown in the image, you can also view the real-time stats from the game and any player information that you want. They also had a window with the current video feed from the game, which would zoom into focus when they were showing a replay that was important to the game.
This is how sports should be watched (the need to wear a headset aside)!
My initial comment was that broadband operators need to be ready for this - why did I say that? Well, take a peek at the connection speed that was being utilized during the event (from my local network):
The incoming transfer rate at this instant was 8.6Mbps - and that ranged from 5-10Mbps all during the event. I was not paying attention the latency in the broadcast (i.e. when Twitter made noise, I was in the headset so couldn't be spoiled). A broadband connection that can stream ~10Mbps constantly is above the current HD streaming requirements for Netflix, but below the ~25Mbps for UDH/4k video. I have seen some estimates for Full 360 VR UHD feeds at 60Mbps, and VR HD feeds at 40Mbps, which are also above most consumer broadband today. Plus, live sports is still one of the biggest draws for broadcast, with millions of simultaneous subscribers watching live events, so capacity will be stressed when this goes mainstream. I am a huge soccer fan, but I suspect I was in the minority in having the gear and the bandwidth for my home connection that can support this.
But I can't wait to see more of my sports using a VR interface! Now - can broadband operators deliver this at scale? If you are curious if your network can, Procera can help you figure that out!