Intel’s True VR will bring the 2018 Olympic Games into your living room

Intel announces tech partnership with Olympics
Digital Trends / Jeremy Kaplan
Ski jumping, figure skating, and all those other Olympic sports you love watching — wouldn’t they be even better in virtual reality? That’s just one part of a tech mash-up between the International Olympic Committee and Intel announced at an event in New York City Wednesday morning.

“Sport has to go where the people are, and many people — in particular many young people — are living a digital life,” IOC President Thomas Bach explained. “So we have to go with sports to where they are living, in their digital world, in their virtual reality.”

Intel said it plans to broadcast 16 events live and offer another 16 on demand from the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea, broadcast using Intel’s True VR technology — the same tech Intel is using to broadcast one MLB game every Tuesday.

True VR involves the use of a special, 12-camera video capture array meant to record 180 degrees of action. It captures a terabyte of data every minute, which is processed and transcoded by mobile production units before streaming out to your headset. Expect to see this live on the Olympic Channel, the the multiplatform destination where the excitement of the Olympic Games is broadcast year round.

Virtual reality has been slow to catch on with consumers, with many content creators and sports groups and teams playing wait and see. Where’s the NFL, for example? Intel CEO Brian Krzanich acknowledged the chicken and egg problem at the event, and said that VR from the Olympics should ensure a great supply of content.

“This fan experience around sports is just kicking off. Before we hype it too high we want to make sure that the experience is really great,” he said.

But the partnership goes well beyond VR: Intel plans to bring a host of technologies to bear on Pyeongchang 2018. There’s drone technology, for example, which should enable not just fantastic camera angles but a new form of pyrotechnics. In recent years, the company has staged events worldwide using arrays of drones to perform interactive light shows — think of them as modern-day fireworks, Krzanich noted.

Drones should let cameras follow ski jumpers as they soar through the skies and other athletes as they wind down mountain paths. That presents unique problems, as well; at an Alpine Skiing World Cup event in early 2016, a drone nearly crashed into an athlete. Krzanich said new technologies and rapid advancements in drones, in particular in object avoidance, should prevent this from being a problem this time around. Bach noted that the IOC had signed off on the use of the drones.

Intel stressed how the partnership would improve the experience for Olympic fans, citing another technology: Intel freeD tech. This involves arrays of 38 cameras that allow Matrix-style camera pivots around a scene, which let the viewer watch the action from any angle. Intel calls it “volumetric,” and if NBC can broadcast with this, it should make for far more dynamic viewing.

Then there’s 5G technology, which was heavily hyped at the CES 2017, in spite of the fact that it’s still years from deployment in the United States. (Here’s everything we know about 5G today.) The advanced cellular network promises more than just speed: It will let viewers gain insights directly from athletes, deliver a wider array of content to broadcasters, and give fans the opportunity to experience the games anywhere, Intel said.

Deployment of such a technology at the Korean games should be a key test of the new technology: Will it allow us to see down the giant slalom as if we were on the slopes, or will it stutter and lag, as slower cellular technologies are known to do?

Finally, Intel says it plans to use artificial intelligence to allow people to better understand the action and events they are watching, and to compare the performance of athletes faster.

“It’s not just about tech, it’s about changing the experience and bringing the experience to more people — and bringing a different experience,” Krzanich said. “The games are truly in transition.”

Mobile

Verizon wants you to lobby the government for 5G deployment

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.
Mobile

T-Mobile says Sprint merger will boost 5G speeds by up to 6 times

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.
Mobile

AT&T adds Minneapolis and Chicago to its mobile 5G road map for 2019

Ready to experience a radical transformation in mobile communication? AT&T is launching mobile 5G in cities across the country over the next few months. Here's everything you need to know about the AT&T 5G rollout.
Mobile

OnePlus will show off a prototype of its 5G phone at MWC

OnePlus will be among the first companies to put the new Snapdragon 855 processor into a phone and will also release a separate and more expensive 5G phone in 2019 with the help of U.K. network EE.
Gaming

The best VR headsets at CES 2019 could bring the technology to the mainstream

While there weren't a ton of new VR headset on display at CES 2019, the ones we saw led us to believe that VR could have a real moment soon, both from a gaming and business standpoint.
Gaming

These are the coolest virtual and augmented reality gadgets from CES 2019

CES 2019 had plenty of VR and AR gadgets on display, including headsets that completely change how you experience virtual reality, and some that don't even require a PC or a phone to run.
Gaming

These shoes let me stroll through ‘Skyrim,’ and I desperately want to go back

After being funded in just two hours on Kickstarter back in October 2018, Cybershoes has earned itself a place among the coolest VR walking and running tech. At CES 2019, we got to try them out and they live up to the hype.
Gaming

The Teslasuit could turn Black Mirror’s terrifying ‘Playtest’ into a reality

We spoke with Teslasuit co-founder Dimitri Mikhalchuk about VR gaming at CES 2019. With all its features, the future of the Teslasuit and virtual reality look bright. And it also sounds a bit like a Black Mirror episode.
Computing

Could the next Microsoft HoloLens be announced at MWC 2019?

After not having a presence at Mobile World Congress for three years, Microsoft is now sending out media invites for a press conference on February 24 during the annual event in Barcelona. Could a next-generation HoloLens be on the way?
Gaming

Immerse yourself in a new universe with these incredible PSVR games

The PSVR has surpassed expectations and along with it comes an incredible catalog of games. There's plenty of amazing experiences to be had so we've put together a list of the best PSVR games available today.
Gaming

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Virtual Reality

Is the Vive Pro better than the original Vive? Our answer might surprise you

HTC Vive vs. Vive Pro, which comes out on top? That's the subject of our latest comparison, which looks at everything from tracking solutions, to controllers, and the brand new headset that could set a new standard for VR.
Computing

Samsung files a VR patent featuring a curved OLED display

Doubling down on its emphasis on curved displays, Samsung recently filed a design patent for a new virtual reality headset that could feature a curved OLED display, which would be an interesting development in VR.