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Olympics to feature Virtual Reality broadcasting for first time

Opening and closing ceremony and sports like men's basketball will be available in VR on a delay during the Games.

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Tired of watching the standard programming of the Olympics every two years? Well, virtual reality is coming to the Summer Games this year, and it is sure to change your viewing experience.

Yesterday, NBC announced that it would provide Virtual Reality (VR) coverage of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games exclusively to authenticated users with compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphones. Together with Samsung VR, users will be able to access the programming using the NBC Sports app via TV Everywhere after authenticating with a paid TV provider.

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NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel believes VR will bring a dynamic atmosphere to the Games. “The world’s greatest sporting event is always a showcase for cutting edge technology, and we’re thrilled to partner with Samsung and OBS to bring our viewers even closer to compelling Olympic action with virtual reality,” Zenkel said in a statement. “Olympic fans can be transported to iconic venues such as Maracana Stadium for an unprecedented view of the Opening Ceremony, and Copacabana Beach for an immersive beach volleyball experience in the sport’s ultimate setting.”

This will be the first time in Olympic history that programming will be available in VR. During the Olympic Broadcasting Service’s 85-hour programming, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, men’s basketball—including the semifinals and final—gymnastics, track and field, beach volleyball, diving, boxing and fencing will all be shown in VR. Short highlights of those sports will be included in the programming as well.

VR programming will begin on Aug. 6, the day after the Opening Ceremony, and end on August 22, the day after the conclusion of the Games. It will broadcast on a delay, but it will be a unique experience for those viewers who choose to wait.

Marc Mathieu, Samsun America’s CMO, believes fans will be absorbed into the footage. “Fans of the Olympics will now get to experience the world’s best athletes as they compete in some of the most popular events of Rio 2016 in a whole new way: through virtual reality,” Methieu said in a statement. “We are thrilled to work with NBC and OBS on this first-of-its-kind endeavor, connecting fans right to the action in Rio, powered by 360-degree storytelling, virtual reality and our Galaxy phones.”

Virtual Reality has the ability to immerse a viewer into the Olympic Game’s environment. When Samsung’s Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy S6 edge+ and Galaxy Note5 phones are paired with the Samsung Gear VR headset, a user will be dropped into a 360-degree VR experience unlike any Olympics before.

Yiannis Exarchos, OBS’s CEO, believes Virtual Reality can bring millions of people right into the celebration. “VR has the power to enable hundreds of millions of people around the world to have a real sense of presence and participation in the most universal celebration of humanity, which is the Olympic Games,” Exarchose said in a statement.

With the Olympics right around the corner, VR programming plans on bringing a realistic, life-like experience of the world’s greatest athletes and their journey to Olympic Gold into the hands of viewers across the world. The best part? Virtual Reality will allow viewers to be right in the action, as close as they can get to putting the medal around their own necks.