Four years ago, virtual reality was a novelty concept on the borders of the tech and gaming worlds. But in 2016, the year of VR, everything is immersive, and the Olympic games are no exception. NBC has confirmed that it will stream 85 hours of this year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics in virtual reality, exclusively to Samsung Gear VR owners.
The Olympics takes place August 5 through August 21 this year, but VR content will air “on delay,” one day behind the normal schedule. Still, you’ll be able to watch the opening and closing ceremonies, track and field, gymnastics, men’s basketball, boxing, beach volleyball, and a few other sports in full goggled-up VR. Back in March, Olympic Broadcasting Services announced that it would broadcast one “key” event per day in VR, but NBC may have just upped the ante. If you don’t have a Gear headset, “VR” in this case is mostly just 360-video. It’s not clear whether you’ll be able to see the non-headset 360-video content on a desktop, so those who care about truly live experiences might choose to stick to their enormous flat-screen televisions.
VR manufacturers are all too keen to get in on the sports world. It’s a natural pairing: sports viewership continues to climb, and fans are always willing to shell out for the next immersive experience. Samsung already made a deal with the NCAA during March Madness, and Microsoft, with its Hololens, can’t wait to get in on Super Bowl action, though Oculus is competing for the same prize.
Samsung’s struck gold with the Olympics, which, with all their controversy, are sure to attact even more of an audience than normal. Plus, with the Zika scares, people might want immersion without actual immersion. Enter VR.