Technology Talk


How Watching the Olympics Changed this Summer


The Olympic events are a celebration of sports and sportsmanship, but this Summer Olympics in Rio will be remembered for a little something other than sports. Entertainment technology took a huge leap at the Rio Olympics this year. Whether it was the Opening Ceremony at the Maracana Stadium or the beach volleyball matches on the Copacabana Beach, NBC made sure that each and every viewer got the front row seats to the biggest sporting event in the world. Yes, Virtual Reality (VR) came to the Olympics and completely changed the way fans got to enjoy their most favorite sports.

The Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) captured the Olympic events and the matches were broadcasted by the NBC Network. OBS already tried the VR technology at the Winter Youth Olympic games this year in Norway, but at a much smaller scale. Hence, the Rio Olympics 2016 have been rightly touted by the NBC as the ‘most live Olympics ever.’

NBC announced well in advance that it would provide selective VR coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics, and that Samsung would act as its technology partner. Users with compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphones were the only ones who were able to access the entire Olympics broadcast via the NBC Sports app. These Samsung smartphones included Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S6 Edge+, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6, and Galaxy Note5 — they could be connected to the Samsung Gear VR Headset to get the VR Olympic experience.


As for the programming, NBC offered a total of 85 hours of 360o coverage of the selective Olympic programming to its users; of course, the VR broadcast included the opening and closing ceremony from Rio. Some of the sporting events that could be enjoyed via VR were gymnastics, basketball, beach volleyball, boxing, diving, fencing, field events, etc. The highlights of most of these events were also available for VR viewing. However, all the VR programming was not broadcasted live, as there was a delay between the live and the VR broadcasts.

This was the first time ever that the Olympic events could be viewed in virtual reality. The idea of watching the greatest celebration of sports is an exhilarating one. The technology enabled millions of fans to experience what it would be like to be in the Olympic stands themselves and watch world-class athletes perform. The VR actually brought the viewers too close to the action, as if they could almost reach out for the medal. This made the people not only more engaged in the events, but allowed them to get close to their beloved sports stars. As the President of the NBC Olympics, Gary Zenkel summed it up, “The world’s greatest sporting event is always a showcase for cutting edge technology, and we’re thrilled to partner with Samsung and Olympic Broadcasting Service to bring our viewers even closer to compelling Olympic action with virtual reality.”


In fact, covering a high profile event like the Olympics is a milestone for the rather new and upcoming field of VR technology as well. An event like this will give the VR technology much-needed exposure. So, the sports fans who would otherwise not indulge in this nascent technology will give it a try. VR is a completely immersive and interactive experience, and it is a great way to enjoy sports, and sports fans are going to notice that. This will allow VR to take further strides into the huge market of sports entertainment, which is now easier for it to tap into.

If you saw the Summer Olympics this year in virtual reality, then you know that it has the potential to change the way people watch sports. For all practical purposes, you were in Rio cheering for your favorite athletes; in fact, it is entirely possible that you had a better view of the event than the people who were actually present in Brazil. This is the power of virtual reality: it can transport you to any place in the world in an instant. With big events like the Olympics in its pocket and major networks like NBC supporting the technology, there is no doubt that we will see a lot more content in the world of VR. Get ready for the future!


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