When the Golden State Warriors opened the NBA season last month, it marked a watershed moment. Yes, they were celebrating their first championship in 40 years, but more importantly they were a part of tech history when their game against the Pelicans was streamed over the Internet live in virtual reality — becoming the first such broadcast of any major U.S. sporting event. Fans were able to bypass paying more than $3,700 a pop for courtside seats as they enjoyed NextVR’s 360-degree views from the comforts of their couch.
NextVR, a purveyor of live and on-demand virtual reality programming with such credits as concerts, sporting events, award shows and even the recent Democratic Presidential Debate, is carving its place into the evolving world of VR. The steady stream of bets on virtual reality are getting bolder by the day. The latest case is brought to you by television giants Time Warner and Comcast (among a group of others) — who funded NextVR with $30.5 million to continue building on its deeply immersive viewing experiences.
“NextVR is at the forefront of a transformative technology that is revolutionizing how live-action content will be consumed,” said Scott Levine, managing director of Time Warner Investments. “We are thrilled to be a part of an experience that consumers will really love and excited about the opportunities ahead.”
“For virtual reality to really start taking off — and we expect it will in 2016 — there must be great content delivered through great technology,” said Brian Koo, a founding member of Formation 8, the group that spearheaded the Series A funding. NextVR had previously raised $5.5 million in September 2014.
David Cole, co-founder of NextVR and a 3D tech vet who’s co-authored 14 patents in VR and stereoscopic technology, joined [a]listdaily to further intimate a popular notion: the VR revolution is coming.
What are some of the ways the newly acquired $30.5 million will be used? What does having the backing of big media companies like Comcast and Time Warner mean for NextVR, and the industry as a whole?
This allows us to move decisively to launch our portal on all VR platforms while building a pipeline of live and a catalog of recorded VR content to distribute just in time for the arrival of the VR mass market.
Our strategic investors, such as Time Warner, Comcast and others bring an expansive set of content assets and content relationships to the table, as well as a world-class operation experience as global media creators and distributors.
What’s next as you build out capability?
Ramping to multiple VR platforms simultaneously with beginning to operate a sustained pipeline delivery of content.
How have the live streams of the Democratic Presidential Debate and the NBA’s season opening games been received by the viewers? How do you produce compelling broadcasts?
Exceedingly well. Both were firsts. Both were widely viewed by the VR audiences. Both were regarded as pioneering displays of the promise of VR, and as reminders that the headset technology has room to improve.
We have amassed a huge set or best practices in VR production — most of which is carefully guarded trade secrets. One thing that is proving itself with every broadcast is that we accomplish immersing the audience in the experience completely delivers the greatest value. VR is not television 2.0. VR is presence 1.0.
How is NextVR different from other VR platforms?
We’re based on a mature, live-broadcast platform originally built for 3DTV. Broadcast is in our DNA. We can deliver a live VR stream over very minimal bandwidth (4 to 6 mbps). This is absolutely unique to NextVR.
What kind of opportunities are there for marketers in VR?
Brands and products can be experienced (not just seen) in VR. Viewers can ‘try’ the car, ‘see’ the clothing as if they’re looking at the store rack and ‘take’ the vacation. All of these elements can be targeted to each individual viewer — similar to web-based advertising.
What kind of VR events can viewers look forward to NextVR putting on in the future? What can people expect from the rapidly rising virtual reality viewing experience?
Sports, music, news, events, big award shows, natural history, horror, theatrical (produced) pieces. One big change that is yet to come is positionally-tracked video. The road to the holodeck, positionally-tracked video is a giant step forward. This allows some ability to physically move around within the video experience. This is coming. NextVR will be showing it soon.
What will it take for VR technology to emerge into the next great platform in 2016?
Content. A sustainable pipeline of high-quality content. The hardware is already on a path of refinement and perfection. The hardware is going to be amazing. The content needs to be there to take advantage of it.