NextVR Introduces NBA 2017-2018 MVP Highlight Reel in Virtual Reality

NextVR, the VR video streaming platform the brings live events to headset users, is introducing the 2017-2018 season NBA MVP highlight reel on the NextVR app.

The VR highlight reel brings headset users courtside with this season’s MVP favorites, including epic shots, dunks and assists of this season from MVP contenders James Harden, Lebron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis.

NextVR says they’re be broadcasting rookie of the year highlights, showcasing the rising talent of Donovon Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons.

Image courtesy NextVR

The NextVR app is available on Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Go, Google Daydream, PlayStation VR, and Windows “Mixed Reality” VR headsets. A subscription to NBA League Pass is required for many of the NBA VR streams.

NextVR has specialized in broadcasting live 360/180-degree sporting events, capturing games and behind-the-scenes footage from the NBA, Boxing, NFL, WWE, and International Champions Cup Soccer. Check out how to download NextVR here.

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Social VR Sports Viewing Platform livelike Raises $9.6 Million

Social VR sports viewing startup livelike has announced a Series B investment of $9.6 million.

Livelike is building a social sports viewing platform for VR and AR devices. The company’s product focuses on connecting remote users into ‘virtual suite’ where they can watch a live sports game projected outside the window (as if watching it from a stadium skybox), along with virtual screens showing stats, different angles, replays, and more. The company hopes to create a “new, interactive, communal way of watching live sports”

I was impressed when I got a chance to see an early version of their tech back in 2015. The company went on to raise a $5 million Series A round in 2016, and this week announced a $9.6 million Series B investment, bringing in investors Greycroft Partners and Lepe Partners, among others.

“LiveLike will utilize its new investment to expands its partnerships, and further build out its product and platform to make it even simpler and frictionless for users,” the company explained in its investment announcement. “This will include creating increased cross-platform compatibility, an evolved user interface to make content discovery even more intuitive, and new in-product experiences—such as fantasy sports integrations—designed to spark additional social interactions. Moreover, it will look to build new compelling advertising opportunities that enable marketers to connect with sports fans in groundbreaking ways.”

Image courtesy livelike

Livelike is developing its offering as a white label platform, allowing various sports and event producers to link their broadcasts into the virtual suite, and provide unique branding to fit the broadcaster, sport, and teams on the field. The company says that both FOX Sports and the French Tennis Federation are among the companies they’ve worked with thus far, and have created VR experiences using their tech for Super Bowl LI, UEFA Champions League Final, NCAA Basketball Big East Tournament, and the French Open.

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NextVR Plans 6DOF, Increased Quality, and AR Support for Live VR Video in 2018

Today, live event broadcasting specialists NextVR announced three technology advancements to their platform coming this year: six degrees of freedom-enabled content, higher resolution output, and augmented reality support. A sneak peek of the technologies is being shown to media at CES 2018.

Positional tracking is the dream for immersive video content, but it is a complex hardware and software challenge. If done correctly, the improvement over common 3DoF content is significant, both in terms of comfort and presence. NextVR claim that their 6DoF solution will make obstructed views “a thing of the past” and that users will be able to naturally shift their vantage point to look around a referee or spectator as they would in reality.

The company haven’t provided details about their process, but 6DoF support has been on their road map for some time, having spoken about the use of light field technology for this purpose in 2015. High quality volumetric video has been demonstrated with enormous camera rigs from companies such as HypeVR and Lytro, but NextVR’s solution is likely to be more compact for the practicalities of event capture and broadcast; on-demand 6DoF content in 2018 is expected be followed by live 6DoF broadcasting.

“VR is the most demanding visual medium ever created and we’re just beginning to deliver on its potential to convincingly create experiences that mimic reality,” says David Cole, NextVR Co-Founder and CEO. “The ability to move naturally inside the experience and the increased ability to see detail add a critical level of presence and realism.”

Higher fidelity output is coming to NextVR early this year, as a result of platform optimisations. The company says it has “exploited and enhanced the detail capture capability of its proprietary VR cameras and encoder infrastructure,” which enables “much higher resolution and higher detailed playout on compatible VR headsets.”

In addition, NextVR plans to “broadly support” AR devices in mid-2018. Exactly how NextVR’s popular live event content will be presented in augmented reality is unclear, but the company says “this cohesive blend of real and transmitted reality allows for real life social engagement while still delivering an unmatched entertainment experience.”

Launched in 2009, NextVR has many years of experience in live broadcast, transitioning from stereoscopic 3D content delivery as Next3D to a VR-focused platform. In recent years, the company has concentrated its efforts on mobile VR platforms such as Gear VR and Daydream, and only recently introduced support for 6DoF-capable hardware in the form of Windows Mixed Reality and PlayStation VR apps in October 2017. While the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive surprisingly still lack support, the company has further plans to support new hardware this year, “including affordable and powerful all-in-one mobile headsets.”

We have feet on the ground at CES, so check back for all things virtual and augmented.

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NextVR to Broadcast NFL Game Highlights in VR Following 5 Games this Season

Are you ready for some VR football highlights? NextVR, a familiar name in VR sports broadcasting—with earlier VR livestreaming initiatives with the NBA, NHL, and more—and the NFL return for a second season of post-game immersive highlight content in VR.

Highlights will be available on-demand following five games in the 2017 regular season, and will showcase the best moments from each, captured and viewed in VR. Hosting the post-game VR experiences are Reggie Bush, Super Bowl XLIV Champion, and Elika Sadeghi, sport commentator. Reggie Bush expressed enthusiasm for the project. “I truly feel that VR is the future. It’s innovative, and I couldn’t wait to be part of it. I’m excited for the fans to watch football in NextVR because they’re going to get a real in-game experience of what we go through as athletes on the field.”

See below for the schedule of games that will have highlights available from the NFL VR Experience:

Image courtesy NextVR

NextVR will work alongside the NFL Films team to position multiple VR cameras throughout the stadium and along the field to capture footage.

“We are thrilled to be back for a second NFL season with more games in addition to the VR studio shows with Reggie Bush,” said NextVR CEO David Cole. “NFL fans expect the best and want to be as close to the action as possible. At NextVR we continue to evolve and improve the fan experience through our technology in collaboration with NFL Films to deliver a premium virtual reality production.”

NBA Finals Prove That VR Sports Broadcasting is Maturing, But There's Still Missing Pieces

A NFL VR Experience Preview Show debuted on October 5th with Reggie Bush and Elika Sadeghi in the NextVR studio discussing the upcoming five game matchups, and expectations for the VR content to follow. Following the final scheduled regular season game available on NextVR, Reggie and Elika will recap the best plays from this season of VR matchups from the NextVR studio. This content is available for free on the NFL channel in the NextVR app available on Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream.

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Inception Raises $15 Million Series A Funding Led By EU Media Conglomerate RTL Group

Inception’s ambitions to become the ‘Netflix of VR’ have just received a major boost, with the Tel Aviv-based company closing a $15 million Series A funding round led by media and broadcast giant RTL Group. Launched in October 2016, the Inception app is accessible on leading mobile VR platforms, as well as the Rift and Vive, while PSVR support is ‘coming soon’.

Having collaborated with the likes of Time Out magazine and online music broadcasting platform Boiler Room to produce original VR content, and more recently making The Dalí Museum’s virtual exhibit Dreams of Dalí accessible in the app, as well as launching a VR music channel with Pitchfork, Inception has quickly gained recognition for its innovative productions.

The company prides itself on its ‘Born for VR’ content, where every feature is “conceptualized, designed and filmed with VR in mind”. Inception claim to have a “best-in-class” app, with proprietary streaming technology that uses spatial audio streaming, adaptive bitrate streaming, and optimised cube projection, along with smart analytics so creators can see how their content is performing.

The $15 million investment will help the platform expand its content catalogue, and accelerate growth, the company says. The press release, posted on the Inception website, states that the company will provide “Virtual Reality programming, creative, and distribution capabilities to RTL Group with its unique combination of a next generation content network, innovative technology in the areas of interactivity and user experience, as well as content creation expertise.”

RTL Group, Europe’s largest broadcaster with a global presence in 59 television channels and 31 radio stations, and the leading European media company for online video, will hold a minority stake of 15% in the company. Leading investors including James Packer, Gigi Levy-Weiss, and iAngels also participated in the Series A funding round.

“VR is an incredible new entertainment medium and a fantastic opportunity for brands and talents to tell their stories and engage their audience as never before”, said Benny Arbel, Inception’s CEO. “Our unique combination of great technology and content will make VR more accessible and enjoyable for audiences around the world. Together, RTL Group and Inception can play a key role in shaping that experience by combining our expertise in content creation, episodic storytelling, and immersive technology to take audiences to the next level.”

“Virtual Reality is a new medium for content and creative ideas, which are at the heart of what we do”, said Christos Schizas, Vice President Business Development and Group Synergies at RTL Group. “That’s why it is only natural to explore ways of augmenting our total video universe with this new medium. We see clear potential for synergies with our existing portfolio of content production, multi-platform networks and advertising solutions. Inception’s experience and entrepreneurial spirit will match perfectly with our tradition and capabilities.”

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Intel & Major League Baseball Partnership Will Bring Free Weekly Games Streamed in VR

Live VR broadcasts from the world’s biggest sporting leagues are steadily becoming easier to find. A major new three year partnership between Intel and MLB, America’s leading baseball league, will bring weekly live baseball games streamed in VR for free to Gear VR via Intel’s ‘True VR’ tech.

Hot off the heels of a deal to stream several golf rounds of the PGA Tour in VR, Intel has now announced a whopping three year partnership with MLB surrounding live streaming baseball games and highlights in VR.

Free Games Broadcast in VR, Weekly

Photo courtesy Intel

The start of the partnership will see Intel VR livestreaming one game every Tuesday during the 2017 MLB regular season for free. Each of those VR broadcasts will also be available for on-demand replays and post-game highlights delivered in VR. In the following seasons during the three year deal, we expect to see ramped up game coverage along with the introduction of paid packages.

The VR broadcasting is done via Intel’s ‘True VR’ platform which is currently only available on Samsung’s Gear VR headset. True VR employs panoramic stereoscopic cameras derived from Intel’s 2016 acquisition of VR broadcasting company Voke. The cameras offer a panoramic (but not completely 360) 3D view of the baseball stadium.

A standard broadcast feed embedded into the virtual view gives the feel of a jumbotron | Photo courtesy Intel

For the MLB games streamed during the 2017 season, Intel says there will be up to four camera angles available per game, which users can freely swap between, or choose to watch a produced version which can also include standard broadcast camera views embedded into the virtual view. The virtual view will also offer “up-to-the-moment player and team statistics throughout the game, including pitcher and batter data, and […] exclusive in-app commentary.”

“We are excited to bring the Intel True VR experience to fans around the country every week,” said Kenny Gersh, EVP, Business, MLBAM, in a joint press release. “Our partnership with Intel will keep MLB at the forefront of technological innovation for our fans, bringing them closer to the action.”

Trinity VR's 'DiamondFX' Batting Simulator is Made for the Major Leagues

June Schedule

Photo courtesy Intel

The schedule of June’s so-called ‘Intel True VR Game of the Week’ follows:

  • Cleveland Indians vs. Colorado Rockies
    • June 6 at 8:40PM ET / 5:40PM PT
  • Kansas City Royals vs. San Francisco Giants
    • June 13 at 10:15PM ET / 7:15PM PT
  • Detroit Tigers vs. Seattle Mariners
    • June 20 at 10:10PM ET / 7:10PM PT
  • St. Louis Cardinals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
    • June 27 at 9:40PM ET / 6:40PM PT

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