NBC’s VR Coverage of the Winter Olympics

The 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea, will include more than 50 hours of live virtual reality (VR) coverage.

NBC, in partnership with Intel, is using VR technology to bring the Olympics to mobile devices or VR headsets through their Sports VR app.

Intel workers speak at a panel about VR in the Olympics

There will be 30 events covered in VR by the end of the winter Olympics on Sunday, Feb. 25, and a complete schedule can be found on the Intel website. Scheduled VR events include Men’s Ski Jumping, Women’s Skiing Moguls, Mixed Curling and Men’s Ice Hockey.

Intel uses 12 different VR locations per event, each location with three to six 4K cameras allowing users to click between different viewpoints, thus getting the effect of a VR headset.

This is not the first time VR technology has been used in sports. Football quarterbacks and Olympians are using VR technology to train. Golfers are using VR footage to train fans on how to play.

NBC is now trying to use VR coverage at the Olympics to set their coverage apart.

There has been criticism of the poor quality of VR footage. Steve Dent, a reporter with Engadget, finds that, “NBC and Intel haven’t improved the image quality much since the last Olympics. It’s not bad for close-up shots, but with wide angles it’s too pixelated at times to even make out someone’s face.”

A still-shot of the VR coverage of the Winter Olympics

Additionally, Rachel Metz from the MIT Technology Review found that “VR is at a weird juncture: while it’s cheaper and more widely available than ever before, it’s still not great at transforming visual experiences for the masses.”

Intel and NBC claim that they aren’t trying to compete with TV, but rather create a whole new platform for viewing.

“Really what we’re doing around [this] experience is not trying to take television and put it into VR, and we’re not only trying to transport the fan to be at the event,” said David Aufhauser, managing director at Intel Sports in an interview with TechRadar. “We’re creating an entirely new way for fans to experience the virtual world.”

VR technology at the Olympics is a relatively new phenomenon that is continued to be explored. While only 30 events are covered using VR in the 2018 Winter Olympics, VR could be used more in the next Olympics to come.

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