Making technology predictions is never easy, but Ooyala's GM of Asia Pacific and Japan, Steve Davis says Virtual Reality's (VR) big break is likely to take place at this month's Winter Olympics.
"2018 should be the beginning of the real acceptance of VR and AR," Davis told a press lunch in Sydney attended by Fifth Quadrant. "My prediction, along with the company's, is that we will see the very first huge worldwide event about to happen in a couple of weeks – Virtual Reality at the Winter Olympics."
Headquartered in Silicon Valley, Ooyala is a subsidiary of Telstra and is a leading provider of software and services that simplify the complexity of producing, streaming and monetising video.
The rise of AR and VR was one of nine predictions Ooyala made for online video in 2018. Ooyala sees the move to Augmented Reality (AR) as being driven by the significant entry of several companies that have come to be known as FAANG (Facebook Apple Amazon Netflix Google). Ooyala says that Apple's ARKit, Facebook's Camera Effects platform and Google's ARCore will also see increased uptake throughout the year.
Ooyala believes that the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea will be a gamechanger for VR through its introduction of new technology. "This global event hopes to enlarge the VR-verse (universe) as companies slowly move away from clunky, 3-D style headgear," Ooyala said in an accompanying press release. "In 2018, expect more lightweight, Google Glass-type wearables; and suits that can make you feel temperatures, and even pain!"
The VR at the 23rd Olympic Games will be powered by Intel in partnership with the Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS). In what will be the largest scale VR event to date, Intel will capture 30 Olympic events in VR, with both live and on-demand content available.
The data-intensive, immersive experiences include camera-angle switching, fully produced VR casts, post-event on-demand highlights, real-time stats and leaderboard overlays, and audio integration providing natural sounds from the various camera locations. Viewers will also have to exclusive behind-the-scenes content including tours of Olympic venues, and the ability to "fly" through the world of Winter Olympics.
Intel is creating the VR experience using a paired-lens capture system that uses multiple stereoscopic pods that can be equipped with up to 12 4K-resolution cameras. Once the video is captured, it is processed and stitched together using Intel Core processors and delivered to viewers. The VR experience will be available in the U.S on multiple devices and platforms including Samsung VR, Google Daydream, Windows Mixed Reality and Android and iOS through NBC Sports VR app. Globally, it will also be available on multiple devices and platforms through 10 official Olympics Rights Holding Broadcaster channels.
Also check out: It's time to get ready for augmented reality
It all sounds pretty impressive, but before we get too excited, we should perhaps cast our minds back to 2010. FIFA and Sony made a similar announcement for 3D technology making its big debut in the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
"Coinciding with the rapidly growing consumer interest in 3D fuelled by the release of blockbuster movie titles in 3D and impending launch of 3D TV sets for the home, the first ever FIFA World Cup in 3D will further capture the excitement for millions of football fans around the globe," Sony and FIFA said in a joint press release at that time.
Of course, what happened next is that 3D content took off and it is now the most popular form of home entertainment, ubiquitous across every TV. Nah, I'm just kidding. After six years of struggling to see adoption, 3D TVs died a widely-reported death in 2016. As reported by CNET last January, LG and Sony, the last two major companies holding a candle for 3D, have ceased to support the 3D feature in their TVs. Other TV-makers such as Samsung, Vizio, Sharp, TCL and Hisense have made similar moves and 3D TVs were conspicuously absent from the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). If there is any hope at all for 3D TV, it's in the Ultra-D "glasses-free" 3D that made an appearance at CES 2018.
But are glasses the problem? Film and television have evolved as a 2D medium, so perhaps audiences don't want to be "inside it". The same can be said for VR. What makes more sense is to push VR towards gaming, which has always been an interactive medium. People need a very compelling reason to don a set of glasses or - in the case of VR – something more like a shoebox on their heads and the only way this will happen is if the content is appropriate. It seems that gaming is most likely to produce the kind of content required for VR to see widespread uptake but perhaps sport will also work, as Intel and Ooyala believe. The problem here is that watching sport is primarily a social activity. "Come over and watch the game mate. We'll put on our VR headsets and have a few beers," said no one ever.
While it is true that The Winter Olympics will be the largest broadcast event for VR ever, it may not be the catalyst that leads to mass acceptance of VR. That may take longer to happen and will likely involve content that is tailor-made to the unique VR experience.
Ooyala's other predictions for the year in video include the continued growth of over-the-top services (content delivered via the internet such as Netflix), pay TV cord cutting, even more mobile content, and Amazon's entry into sports. Ooyala also sees the cost of content production reaching new heights in 2018, traditional advertising's continued demise, the rise of data, AI and machine learning and an increase in consolidation in the form of media mergers and acquisitions.
"Ultimately, those companies which excite consumers with innovations in discovery and content delivery, funded through new monetisation methodologies, may well enjoy the most success in 2018," Ooyala concluded.