BT Updates on VR Challenges for Sport

By Bob Raikes
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BTAndrew Gower of BT, quoted in DigitalTVEurope.net, said in a speech at a conference in London, said that BT in the UK is looking for ways to integrate VR into its sports coverage, integrating with the main TV screen experience. It is looking at ways of capturing 360º video content in much higher resolution. Gower said that he expects viewers to ‘snack’ on other viewing methods, rather than using headsets or mobile devices continuously. Critical, then is getting synchronisation between the TV and other devices.

The need to sync suggests that delays of up to 40 seconds in the ‘live’ stream would have to be acceptable to viewers and that acceptability may depend on the sport involved. Football is very important for BT and Gower said that covering the sport in 360º is ‘challenging’.

BT is working with Huawei and Tiledmedia on capturing video in 8K and sending just a ‘window’ from the full image to the viewer, but that means a need for very low latency networks. The firm is also looking at capturing at 12K and 16K as part of this development. This approach is seen as a worth investigation as it also dramatically reduces the processing needed at the headset.

Bandwidth is a problem as it is using 135Mbps for 4K 360º video, with over 500Mbps for 8K and Gower said that you ‘really need 5Gbps’ for security.

Analyst Comment

The timing issues may already be a big problem. I find myself that, sometimes when I’m working on finalising an issue, I’m listening on my digital radio (a bit behind ‘live’), or my Alexa (a long way behind live) while my wife is in another room watching a sports programme on digital TV (close to live). On the other hand, I may be hearing ‘pings’ on my phone telling me of events that are yet to come.

It has been said that the reason that sports fans shout at the TV is a feeling that, even though they consciously that nobody can hear them, they sub-consciously feel that their support for a team (or hostility to the opposition) can influence the result. That is why a live feeling about sport is so important. Once you know you are ‘behind the curve’, mentally, you don’t feel so immersed. So synchronisation is important and it may be the low latency of 5G can be a big help, although there is still a lot of processing between the camera and the viewer. (BR)

BT is already experimenting with VR – Rio Ferdinand and Gary Lineker. Image:BT