Sky launches VR app, letting people watch TV in 360-degree virtual reality

Sky has set up a special studio to create videos for virtual reality, seizing on excitement that it could be the viewing technology of the future

Andrew Griffin
Monday 03 October 2016 14:00 BST
David Beckham filming in virtual reality
David Beckham filming in virtual reality (Sky)

Sky has launched its own VR app, letting people watch TV in 360-degrees and with it strapped to their head.

The company is looking to help virtual reality become the video technology of the future by launching the app, which will initially launch with a limited number of 360-degree videos but could eventually become the viewing technology of the future.

Sky – which has been at the front of previous technologies like catch-up TV – hopes to show how virtual reality makes viewing more engaging. For now, the virtual reality technology is confined to its app – but could make its way to the rest of its offering.

It hopes to demonstrate that through new VR experiences within the app. Those include a special exhibition featuring David Beckham, who shows how VR can be used for sport by making people feel like they are trackside at Silverstone or have ringside seats watching Anthony Joshua.

Those videos have been produced by Sky VR Studios, a collaboration with Google. They are the beginning of a range of exclusive videos, which will include a performance from the English National Ballet later this autumn.

That’s a suggestion of the way that virtual reality might be used for sport in the future - the company has already been recording some Premier League content in 360-degrees, and in the future it might be possible to watch whole games inside of virtual reality.

At the moment, the Sky app is meant as a showcase of the kinds of videos that will be on their way in the future. That includes 360-degree videos made by Sky and also from other partners, including Star Wars: Red Carpet, Anthony Joshua: Becoming World Champion and clips from Disney’s The Jungle Book.

The phone app is available for free on the Google Play or App Store, and can be used with a Google Cardboard headset for the full experience or in normal, 2D without one. The app will also work with Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift.

The company indicated that virtual reality will be rolling out across more of Sky’s products in the future.

“Interest in VR content is building, generating more excitement every day,” said Gary Davey, managing director of content at Sky. “We are just at the beginning of our VR journey at Sky, launching Sky VR studios earlier this year and we are already breaking new ground. Now comes the creative challenge of deploying this immersive experience with engaging story-telling. I am a big believer."

Sky has been looking to build out its VR expertise for years. In 2013, it invested in Jaunt, which makes virtual reality films including one of the first concert films shot in 360-degrees.

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