March Madness is the latest sporting event to be broadcast in virtual reality.
Turner Sports announced today that it is partnering with Oculus to provide live virtual reality coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four Semifinals and National Championship this weekend.
The feed will stream a 180-degree view of the game from a courtside perspective, along with a virtual scoreboard with live stats and audio from both the commentators and sounds in the arena. Those with a Samsung Gear VR device can watch the live action via the NCAA March Madness Live VR App in the Oculus store.
Helping produce the live feed is Voke, a new virtual realty technology company specializing in live streams of sports and music events that raised a $12.5 million round earlier this month. Using a stereoscopic, panoramic camera system, Voke creates a 3D live stream of events that can be broadcast to any VR device.
Turner is also offering a 2D, 180-degree live stream on desktop for the games this weekend, in addition to 360-degree highlights posted to the NCAA March Madness Facebook page.
This is yet another example of broadcast giants dipping their toes in the virtual reality world. Last month, FOX Sports inked a 5-year deal with NextVR to stream virtual content from its live sports broadcasts. The first official event in that partnership was at the big Daytona 500 NASCAR race last month, as fans wearing a Samsung Gear VR headset at home had an up-close-and-personal view of the action, along with audio commentary and graphics that showed the race leaders.
On a related note, Oculus on Monday shipped the final version of its Oculus Rift headset to Kickstarter backers, bringing consumer-grade virtual reality to everyday consumers for the first time. The Samsung Gear VR headset, which debuted in November, differs from the Oculus Rift and soon-to-be released HTC Vive and Playstation Vue because it streams content through a Samsung smartphone.