Olympics and VR: A Summary
Virtual reality has infiltrated the sports world in different ways over the past two years, but this summer it takes a global leap, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. From marketing content to athletic training to live broadcasts for fans, VR is making its first foray in the Olympics.
While the technology is still viewed by many as experimental, there will be over hundreds of hours of content available, with over 12 broadcasters claiming rights for VR. That’s a pretty big deal, considering it’s only been about 2 years since Facebook bought Oculus and most commercial VR tech began development.
So how exactly is VR being used? The breakdown below:
NBC Sports has the rights to the Olympics in the U.S., with over thousands of hours of content available streaming online and on TV. They’ve decided to carefully integrate VR content by delaying these broadcasts to VR headsets by a day to avoid losing TV and streaming audiences. They will broadcast 85 hours of VR content on their Samsung Gear VR app, which will include highlights, replays, and the opening and closing ceremonies.
The only live events scheduled to be broadcasted are men’s fencing and men’s basketball.
Schedule: Replays and Highlights (all times EDT)
Aug. 8: Boxing prelims (10:00 a.m., 4:00 p.m.)
Aug. 9: Boxing prelims (10:00 a.m., 4:00 p.m.)
Aug. 10: Gymnastics, men’s all-around (3:00 p.m.)
Aug. 11: Gymnastics, women’s all-around (3:00 p.m.)
Aug. 13: Track and field (8:30 a.m., 7:00 p.m.)
Aug. 14: Track and field (7:20 p.m.)
Aug. 15: Track and field (8:30 a.m., 7:15 p.m.)
Aug. 16: Track and field (8:30 a.m. 7:15 p.m.)
Aug. 17: Beach volleyball, women’s medal matches (9:00 p.m.)
Aug. 18: Beach volleyball, men’s medal matches (9:00 p.m.)
Aug. 20: Diving, men’s 10m semi and final (10:00 a.m., 3:30 p.m.)
Aug. 21: Closing ceremony (7:00 p.m.)
Tentative schedule of LIVE VR coverage:
Aug 12: Fencing, men’s team foil (8:30 a.m., 4:00 p.m.)
Aug 19: Basketball, men’s semifinals (2:30 p.m., 6:00 p.m.)
Aug 21: Basketball, men’s medal games (10:30 a.m., 2: p.m.)
BBC will stream 100 hours of 360-degree content for subscribers of their BBC Sports 360 app. Fans can follow one event per day from up to four camera angles, including highlights. Content will be available on Gear VR, Google Cardboard, and also online via mouse scrolling.
Australia’s Seven will also broadcast 100 hours of live VR content via the 7Rio VR 2016 Gear VR app. The content will include the opening and closing ceremonies, men’s basketball, gymnastics, track and field, beach volleyball, diving, boxing and fencing, as well as highlight packages of those sports.
The cameras used by Olympic Broadcasting Services to shoot all VR footage
- The New York Times published a VR film called “The Modern Games,” a historic look at the Olympics dating back to Athens in 1896 with features of Babe Didrickson, Bob Beamon and Usain Bolt. If you don’t know who Didrickson and Beamon are, you can find out on the Times VR Cardboard app.
- Google released Rio: Beyond the Map, a well produced interactive 360 tour of Brazilian culture.
A new museum in the north of Rio opened its doors to the public on July 5. Visitors can tour Olympic venues and tourist attractions all over the city.
Some Olympians have used VR to visualize their performance in hope of stronger muscle memory connections.
- USA triathlete Gwen Jorgensen hooked up with a former Oculus executive to prepare herself for the cycling part of the course.
- Team Great Britain has been using VR to train athletes under VR-Vantage, a joint project by defense company BAE Systems and government organization UK Sport. You can see a synchronized swimming practice here.
Although Jorgensen is the only USA athlete using VR, Mounir Zok, director of technology and innovation for Team USA, is an advocate of VR training. He cautioned to Techradar that, “Team USA tries not to introduce any new technology into training six months before the Games.”
While only a handful of Olympians are using VR currently, we should expect more adoption for the 2018, 2020 Olympics once athletes have familiarized themselves with the technology.