Tuesday, 28 March 2017 10:38

Intel's Plan to Dominate the VR Market Continues with March Madness Final Four

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With the Final Four being televised in Arizona this weekend, you might score a way to put yourself into the middle of the action - without leaving your couch. All you need is a VR headset and $2 or $3.

Turns out that Intel has been live-streaming games from the NCAA Basketball tournament on its TrueVR platform since the start of the Sweet 16 round. This is the first major undertaking in sports, as well as virtual reality for Intel. NCAA, Turner Sports, and CBS Sports have all named Intel as the official VR provider of college sports.

Intel will use seven VR camera arrays in the stadium this weekend for the Final Four games. Each array utilizes 12 cameras to broadcast a spherical view of the action. The images are synced up before the game starts, corrected for color consistency, and then stitched in real time using TrueVR’s processing software. The stream is pushed out through the March Madness Live VR app. You can watch the games using a Samsung Gear VR headset and any of the phones it works with.

The Intel calls this Project Allow.Intel isn’t going to sell the Project Alloy headset itself, but instead will team up with hardware partners to bring it to market. Developers will also be enlisted to make mixed-reality content for Alloy that shows off the headset’s unique features. The system will run pre-existing VR content, but it’s telling that Bhowmike refers to Alloy as a “VR-Plus” device.

Whether or not this kind of content will sell is still uncertain, but TrueVR is betting pretty big on it. Tickets to watch the games will be offered in two tiers. A gold ticket costs $3, and features VR-specific broadcasters, and gives you control over which camera location you’re watching from. A silver ticket costs $2, and it stations you at one courtside camera and pipes in commentary from the regular television broadcasters. This nominal charge will be a good test for others in the live VR sports business, such as NextVR, which doesn’t charge extra for VR experiences.

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