There will be 85 hours of VR programming coming out of the Olympics watchable by way of the NBC Sports app. Sadly the plan is to make this only available to Samsung Galaxy smartphones compatible with Gear VR, and that only after logging in with their pay TV provider. I fully understand and agree with the need to authenticate viewers before allowing them access to their premium content; they are paying an awful lot of money to get the exclusive distribution rights, after all. But there are a lot of us VR junkies running everything from Google Cardboard with an iPhone or non-Samsung android phone, on up to the Oculus Rift crowd driving their $500 VR headsets with their $1,500 computers with the massive graphics cards, who could be watching this programming if they would allow us a paid authentication path into it as well.
Still, this is the very first time any VR access to the Olympics has ever been available, and the second major sporting event to be hosted in this format this year (the first being the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, which came with a Google Cardboard viewer you could fold up and use with your smartphone to view the photo shoots in VR). There is a good chance their app builders have only been able to make it work on the Samsung version of Android so far, limiting it to the Gear. I certainly can’t imagine they don’t want to sell the programing to every one they could, although if they didn’t develop the VR app themselves they may be at the mercy of the contracts signed by the folks who did create it. So I for one will be keeping my fingers crossed that they manage to deploy it to the iPhone iOS and other Android builds in time for the rest of us to sign up for it and enjoy it during the Olympics. Although we wont be able to see it live; there is a bit of a delay in editing and processing the stereo 360 degree SuperHD 8K video into a formatted stream that can be fed to the app, and yes, that is a 4K movie theater resolution video stream for each eye. And even if they don’t have a way to deliver it to anything but a Gear for the Olympics themselves, once they have it recorded the rest of us can enjoy it down the road when they do get the app working for all the other platforms. Thanks to VR Scout for the heads up on this one.