The British Broadcasting Corporation will broadcast the 2018 FIFA World Cup in virtual reality, in a first for the competition and for the television network. The trial for their cutting-edge technology is available for free via the BBC’s dedicated 2018 World Cup app for iOS, Android, Gear VR, Oculus Go and PlayStation VR.
This is part of a number of technology trials the BBC is testing using the World Cup, including 4K (which the BBC has described as Ultra HD) and High Dynamic Range and will be available to a limited number of users on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Virtual Private Box
The way the app is styled is as a private hospitality box, complete with sofa and chairs, where the match can be watched from a number of viewpoints, from a high vantage point or from behind either goal.
The idea of a VR app placing you next to the game isn’t new: The Sochi Winter Olympics, also in Russia, had a VR app supported by NBC in the USA and Eurosport everywhere else. As well as this, the NBA and NFL have trialled VR apps, the former of which led to an incredibly funny viral video in which colour commentator Reggie Miller put on a VR headset to watch a Golden State Warriors vs San Antonio Spurs playoffs match he was already courtside for, leading to no end of jokes. This isn’t even the first instance of UK football being in VR, with both Sky and BT Sport
Association football is a great sport to watch in VR because while it is a constantly moving game, it is slow paced enough that there isn’t much of a risk of cybersickness just trying to keep track of the game, something that could be an issue with basketball or some of the events at the Winter Olympics.
One thing that was not made clear from the announcement is how the football will be presented. One thing that hasn’t been nailed down yet between different VR sports coverage is displaying statistics and the commentary team. These details will be likely to be made clearer nearer the time.
The BBC’s VR Voyages
This is not the first time the BBC have experimented and explored using virtual reality, with their website having a dedicated section for their virtual reality endeavours.
The BBC’s experiences are free and use a mix of 360 VR documentaries as well as dedicated VR experiences. There are a number of topics, including the River Nile, the Easter Rising, attempting to beat the land speed record, the stories of people during the refugee crisis, and travelling across the Himalayas.
All of their experiences are interesting and worth a look. The World Cup VR experience is a more ambitious live event than even these, with a viewership in the millions, which could make it the biggest showcase for the medium in the UK thus far. More may be riding on this trial than watching football in a virtual skybox.