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.”


From the road to your wrist, see how Android has evolved over the past 10 years

Android started out as just a mobile operating system, but 10 years in it's pretty much everywhere. Check out our round-up of all the different Android variations that have cropped up so far, and what might be coming in the future.

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.

Intel's dedicated GPU is not far off -- here's what we know

Did you hear? Intel is working on a dedicated graphics card. It's called Arctic Sound and though we don't know a lot about it, we know that Intel has some ex-AMD Radeon graphics engineers developing it.

OnePlus's 5G phone should arrive in May 2019, may cost up to $850

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.

Intel's discrete graphics will be called 'Xe,' IGP gets Adapative Sync next year

Intel has officially dubbed its discrete graphics product Intel Xe, and the company also provided details about its Gen11 IGP. The latter will include adaptive sync support and will arrive in 2019.

Oculus VR could upgrade the Rift with a new display in 2019

Oculus could be set to release a new version of its Rift headset in 2019, but it will be more of a modest upgrade than a true sequel. The Rift S, as its purportedly called, will have a new display, and inside-out tracking.

Google awarded patent for using eye tracking to detect expressions in VR

Google was awarded a patent that involves using eye tracking to infer facial expressions using machine learning in virtual reality. The tech could help make virtual reality a whole lot more immersive than it already is.

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.
Virtual Reality

Prototype Valve VR headset leaked: HTC Vive challenger confirmed?

Leaked images revealed that a Valve VR headset is in development, even amid Valve's partnership with HTC for the HTC Vive. Sources confirmed the device, which may be bundled with a Half-Life VR game.
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.

The best HTC Vive games available today

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.

A Google patent shows a way to make VR even more immersive

Virtual reality can be a really immersive experience, but it does sometimes it does have boundaries. Google has addressed this problem by patenting shoes with a flexible region on the bottom.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.

Dive head first into the best experiences available now on the Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift brought back virtual reality and put a modern twist to it. Grab your Touch Controllers, put on your VR headset, and jump into the fun with some of the best Oculus Rift games available now.