DirectTV & Big Knockout Boxing (BKB) Enter Virtual Reality
Already on the cutting edge of the combat sports world, Big Knockout Boxing (BKB) is pushing further towards the edge with the launch of a new Virtual Reality app.
“DIRECTV, the leading television provider in the country and one of the most innovative companies, is making its first foray into virtual reality with an App focusing on DIRECTV’s exclusive BKB Boxing events,” a BKB press release announcing the launch read.
“We know that VR can be a deeply engaging entertainment medium. It delivers a compelling sense of ‘being there’ that’s unmatched by any other technology,” said Jon Molod, vice president of Digital Entertainment Products Group, DIRECTV, part of the AT&T family.
Available from the Oculus™ Store, Google Play, and Apple App Stores, the BKB VR App “was designed as a short form immersive experience focused on presenting a selection of the most exciting fight moments.” That is accurate. Shot from what looks to be the front row of perhaps the second tier of the Mandalay Bay Arena in Las Vegas, NV during BKB3 back in June, the effect is that of being at the fights from a fan-in-the-stands perspective.
Fights seem like a natural for Virtual Reality. Few events are as visceral as fighting even when simply being watched. I’ve a bit of experience with Virtual Reality, having just partnered with CloserVR to shoot a play I recently directed for downloadable VR content and fortunately have VR gear. So I checked into the Apple App store on my phone, downloaded the free app and strapped on my Google cardboard headset to experience BKB in Virtual Reality.
Shot using a “five camera system,” the look of BKB’s VR experience is impressive. The binaural sound is rich, full, and all-encompassing. The five-camera system seems to be a 360 rig that captures everything happening during fight night from the combat to the crowd watching it. In editing, the multiple perspectives are stitched together to create a 360 environment that can be viewed simply by moving your head and looking around.
In the BKB VR app, you are able to view The Pit (where BKB fighters throw down) and see different pairs of fighters in multiple highlight clips go at it while the announcers excitedly call the action. You can look up at several large screens and see the action happening in The Pit from different angles, look at the stats of each fighter, stare at the ceiling, the crowd, whatever you like. What you can’t do is zoom in on the fight itself without looking up and picking one of the large screens to watch. But this is new technology. Zooming with just your eyes will be possible soon enough. Live fights in VR are likely on the horizon.
Entertainment and the way we view it is changing. Technology is catching up to our imaginations and going beyond. With mobile devices of all kinds now the norm, the BKB VR App and the innovations it hints at, show a company that understands the future.
“We believe that much of VR’s growth will be mobile driven,” said Molod, “As the technology evolves we hope to find new ways to use VR to enhance not just BKB, but all sports experiences.”
Sporting events are a natural for a VR live stream. I imagine this is only a first step for DirectTV and BKB. A Pay-Per-View event live in VR but viewable on your mobile device has to be coming within the next few years. No longer will fight fans feel left out if they can’t afford to travel or get tickets to their favorite events. Exciting stuff for fight fans everywhere.