By: Matt Rybaltowski
Imagine lounging by the fireplace of your rustic log cabin in the foothills of the Appalachians on a chilly Saturday evening in February, when you decide to strap on a VR headset that your children purchased for you at Christmas.
While Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic prepares for a 360 degree windmill dunk, you are instantly transported from your La-Z-Boy in New Hampshire to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, the host of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game. Within seconds, you could find yourself sitting courtside between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on All-Star Saturday Night.
A technological innovation that may have seemed unfathomable before the former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates entered the league will soon become possible through an immersive media experience designed by Intel.
On Tuesday, Intel and Turner Sports announced a multiyear partnership under which the Silicon Valley technology company will become the exclusive provider of virtual reality for the NBA
on TNT. Under the deal, Intel will deliver live content for a select number of NBA games on the network, beginning with 2018 All-Star Weekend. Separately, Intel reached another agreement with the NBA to become a provider of virtual reality and 360-degree volumetric video with Intel’s freeD technology for the league’s global broadcast partners.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“This unique partnership with the NBA will enable us to work with official league broadcasters, including Turner Sports, to take their broadcasts to an unprecedented level and create new ways to immerse viewers in the game,” said James Carwana, vice president and general manager of Intel Sports.
“There are a lot of fans who love the game, but don’t actually sit within proximity of their favorite team. How can you bring to that experience to the fans? It’s envisioning yourself putting on a headset and being transported to that courtside seat.”
Using its VR capture system, Intel can create a lifelike virtual
reality experience for viewers, allowing them to sift through highlights of a resounding, monster jam by LeBron James or an off-balanced 3-pointer by Stephen Curry from multiple angles. Eventually, the technology may allow a fan to diagnose a play from the same viewpoint as someone like Kyrie Irving when the point guard must decide whether to penetrate off a pick from Al Horford or deliver a pass to the open screener.”As a fan you might elect to choose the point of view from one of your favorite players and have that virtual camera almost sitting on their nose, so you’re watching from their eyes as the play unfolds,” said Jeff Marsilio, NBA vice president, Global Media Distribution. “You might be able to put on one of these headsets and you might be able to look around as you were Kyrie Irving.”
For the fan hoping to receive an up-close view of a pick-and-roll at a critical moment of a game, the technology could become available on a Video On Demand basis fairly soon, Marsilio said. It might take a little more time for the technology to be applied in real-time, he added.