I’m a big fantasy football player, I’ve been playing in a league with some of my college buddies for years now. Back when we were in the fraternity house, we used to all get together every Sunday and watch the game – trash talking with each other along the way. Those Sundays were among my favorites in college, but sadly now that everyone has graduated and spread out they simply aren’t possible in the way they were before – that is until now.
LiveLike is a social sports viewing app for VR currently being shown on the GearVR that places you in a luxury skybox with a giant window in front of you overlooking the stadium. Unlike sports viewing experiences like NextVR’s NBA courtside and NHL ringside views, which place the user right in the action in a full 360/180 live environment, LiveLike makes use of footage from cameras already in the hands of sports broadcasters which allows for quick proliferation into the market. The immersive custom camera rigs – outfitted with Red Dragons – that NextVR is using are amazing, but very expensive, costing in the ballpark of $500k or more for a 360 setup.
The majority of broadcasters will one day make that investment, but the 3DTV debacle likely has them a little weary of making a strong early investment. We are talking millions of dollars in camera overhauls for the entire sports broadcast industry, it isn’t something that will happen overnight. That is where LiveLike comes in, a way to bridge the gap and bring immersive live sports to a mainstream audience.
LiveLike can give you a skybox view with just a single camera because the view from a sky box isn’t immersive, it subtends a relatively small angle – say, 90-100 degrees wide. Using one camera with a wide angle lens pointed down from the stands LiveLike can capture a field of view as wide as 170 degrees. LiveLike then wraps that video feed into their app, placing it behind the rendered glass of your skybox. (They only need one camera because the field doesn’t occupy a huge portion of your field of view, and there’s no need for separate L/R eye views when the subject matter is that far away.) The best part is, many broadcasters already have this equipment on hand.
This flat window view won’t be the only way you see the game either. In the demo I saw closeups from the field were overlayed on the crowd allowing for multiple views of the action at once. Speaking with LiveLike’s founder, André Lorenceau, he told us about his unique plans for highlights. Rather than spending the whole game watching it from that immersed perspective, “we think that if we can immerse you in the moments you really want to be immersed in – like scoring a goal or a touchdown, and then bring you back to your suite with your friends that will be a better overall experience.” Think about it like the Skycam commonly used in football, it provides an amazing view of the action – but not a view that you would want to experience the entire game necessarily. The highlights will be accessible through an interface – similar to watching a gamecast on NFL.com, where the highlights are available shortly after the play happens. These clips may even eventually be socially shareable – which brings us to arguably most important feature, social.
It is more than just a bridge solution, LiveLike adds a lot of value to the sports viewing experience. Socialization is a big part of the sports viewing experience, in fact it is an essential aspect. The reason we care so much about them is simple, it provides us with a sense of community – an identification with something larger than ourselves. It’s a concept explored by communication and psychology professors, and it is why LiveLike has a competitive advantage over the other players in the space. Bringing your friends together to watch sports can be a powerful thing – and especially in fan communities that are spread far and wide. That is one of the reasons why LiveLike is approaching the biggest international sport in the world, Soccer (futbol), first and foremost.
LiveLike is currently only being shown on the GearVR, but Andre wants the platform to exist on all major headsets. The Vive with its room scale tracking ability in particular is of interest, as you can imagine the benefits of being able to walk around in your suite. LiveLike’s approach to ushering in a new era in sports broadcasting is a smart play for the time being. As the app continues to develop it will be interesting to see what features make it into the final build. Fantasy sports fans rejoice, however, one of the features that will be making it into the final version is the ability to track your fantasy teams within the space, even potentially to the point of augmenting the broadcast to highlight the players on your squad. As a sports fan and fantasy aficionado, I’m pretty pumped to be living the suite life.