BBC Bets Big On VR With Reality Labs Initiative

by Ryan Winterhalter • September 8th, 2017

The BBC is no stranger to virtual reality. The research and development division of the media giant has been testing and experimenting with VR and 360 content for over five years. Apparently, there’s something promising in these VR dalliances, because the BBC just announced Reality Labs, their new initiative to take what they’ve learned since their first white paper in 2012 and apply it across the organization.

The first order of business for the new “work stream,” as they refer to it, is to focus on making existing forms of VR and AR content more engaging. In a blog post announcing Reality Labs, BBC R&D said:

“Initially we’ll be moving forward with near term research projects in Virtual and Augmented Reality and how they could form part of the future of the BBC and the global media landscape. We’ll also be investigating the use of them in current and evolving production workflows to help the broader BBC create current forms of content in new ways and understand how they could create new forms of content in the future.”

The blog post goes on to describe five goals for Reality Labs. The first being the expansion of open standards like WebVR.

The Web forms a core part of the BBC and we think WebVR could be part of that. Some of our focus for the next 12 months will be on the viability of the web as a platform to deliver content to our audience. The broad reach and accessibility of the web is appealing and we’ll be keeping you updated on that as we progress.

The second goal is to create and leverage partnerships with other broadcasters, organizations, and universities in order to expand VR and AR offerings.

In order to meet objectives one and two, the BBC needs to create content. Which is why the third goal is to create tools that will allow creative teams to develop stories and experiences easily and quickly. Meanwhile, the fourth is the creation of a “VR Hub” inside BBC Design & Engineering. Reality Labs will ensure that the VR Hub’s content appears in all areas of the BBC’s focus, from online publishing to broadcasting.

Finally, Reality Labs believes that augmented reality will grow in importance as time goes on and intends to partner with outside organizations to create AR content.

The initiative calls to mind two questions for us: Will the BBC’s efforts pay off, and will we get a sweet Dr. Who or Sherlock game out of this?

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