on March 05, 2015 Technology News

How The NBA is Embracing the Future of Virtual Reality

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What is Virtual Reality? VR is defined as “the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.” It is a fake world that seems real. Imagine being placed in the middle of a video with the ability to turn and see in every direction. But you aren’t looking at a screen, you are looking at a world. You have a 360 degree view. Samsung has recently teamed up with the NBA to showcase their first mobile virtual reality headset, the Gear VR. They are creating an entirely new way to watch games, one that may far exceed what we know and use today, but what if this is only the beginning? What if the Gear VR could provide movies, shows, and video games? Could the future of video be changed forever? 

Samsung decided to test the Gear VR out during All-Star Weekend at Madison Square Garden in New York City. They filmed during practice, warm-ups, the all-star game, the slam dunk competition, and the three point contest. They placed one set of cameras on the score table, one in the corner of the court, and one on a courtside seat. Matt Apfel, Samsung Media’s VP of Strategy and creative content, stated that “The original requests were even more ambitious—center court or on the backboard—but concerns for player safety meant the team had to walk it back a bit.” As for the finished product, Samsung is going to film a few more NBA events, then address their next steps with the videos at the end of the season. If they productized the videos so that people could watch entire games and events within this virtual reality, it would be revolutionary to the entertainment industry. 

How does one capture a 360 degree view? It’s actually pretty cool. Here is a picture of the device used during NBA All-Star Weekend. 

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Black Tape connects 6 GoPros in a circle on top of 2 RED Epic Video Cameras. These cameras cover the entire surrounding environment to give you the most realistic 3D-HD film possible. Using 4K technology, (as mentioned in our article, Preparing for 4K on the Small Screen), the resolution is nearly perfect and the result is mind-blowing. 3 years ago Oculus VR was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion. Oculus was the first to make a marketable virtual reality headset. It is used mainly for video games, but practices the same technique with GoPros in order to give the user 100% field of view. Samsung has taken that concept to the next level, and plans to give the public access to their product through affordable pricing and headset portability. 

The Samsung Gear VR and the advancement of virtual reality technology could potentially have a huge impact on everything video. Although the Gear VR does require the user to own a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 to download games and videos, it is only $200. Multiple demographics of people will have the opportunity to purchase the headset. Can you picture that? Movies and games shot at a 360 degree angle, putting you directly into the environment in which you choose. This could change the entire film industry. Would people continue to attend the theater? Or would they rather be placed right into a new movie? Insurgent, the sequel to Divergent which is expected to come out on March 20th, 2015, is testing out a Gear VR program where fans can place themselves in a scene with characters from the film

Companies have the technology to make virtual reality a reality, but they choose to put their money elsewhere. However, we think that virtual reality may be our future. The NBA is wise for letting Samsung test out their product. According to The Verge, "You can feel like you're shoulder to shoulder with some of the NBA's best in a few weeks — if you own a Gear VR.” If I owned a Galaxy, I would spend $200 on the Gear RV in a heartbeat. To be transported into the game, to see all 360 degrees, to feel like a part of another world—must be a feeling like no other. Let’s see if any Hollywood Studios consider integrating their up-and-coming films with the Samsung Gear VR or some sort of variation of a VR headset. Virtual Reality is just plain awesome. 

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Nick Shanman

Intern at large. Movie buff.