For the first time in history, the upcoming Presidential Debates will be streamed in virtual reality, allowing viewers to join up and have virtual viewing parties anywhere that has an internet connection.
Created in partnership between NBC and AltspaceVR, viewers will be able to enter a virtual version of NBC’s Democracy Plaza and watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump duke it out.
AltspaceVR, a virtual world that centers on current events, can be experienced on all major virtual reality systems, including Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, and through a desktop viewer on PC.
The company has previously hosted successful live music and comedy events in its virtual universe, but has never covered and streamed an event of this magnitude. AltspaceVR raised $10 million in funding in July, with investments from industry players like Comcast Ventures, Tencent Holdings Limited, and Dolby Family Ventures.
To prepare for the massive bump in simultaneous users that it will incur during the debates, CEO Eric Romo says the company has been improving its streaming infrastructure.
“We’ve been doing a ton of work around scaling,” the entrepreneur told Variety, adding that he is “cautiously optimistic” that Altspace will remain stable during the debates. As with any streaming video with potentially high viewership, the stability of their system will largely depend on how many people are attempting to access Democracy Plaza at once.
Creating a common area for virtual reality users to congregate while watching the debates is an interesting idea, especially considering the relatively polarized political climate in America at the moment. Whether or not the crowd will favor one candidate or another is uncertain, but the ability for those from every locale to access one common digital plaza likely means there will be a diverse array of viewpoints in attendance.
Leading up to the debates, AltspaceVR will broadcast other NBC-hosted election streams this week, including an appearance from Al Roker at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday.