On October 13th, CNN will live stream the US Democratic presidential debate in virtual reality. Anyone with a Samsung Gear VR headset will be able to drop in via VR streaming company NextVR's portal in the Oculus store. CNN says viewers will get a "front-row seat" from the perspective of an audience member, with the immersive stream allowing people to "hold a gaze on a particular candidate, catch off-screen interactions, and more."
Limited access to VR headsets means that not many viewers will actually be able to tune in this way, but the falling price of VR (Samsung recently halved the cost of its Gear headset to $99) means that CNN might be ahead of the curve. The broadcaster has already dabbled in this area by recording in virtual reality — but not streaming live — the Republican debates earlier this month, and it says that VR offers viewers "the opportunity to experience these historic political events through their own lens."
problems of frame-rate and and resolution still dog live-streaming virtual reality
Whether or not live-streamed virtual reality is a good enough experience right now is still up in the air. Earlier this year, NextVR operated trials live-streaming a soccer game between Manchester United and Barcelona FC in VR, with Recode's Vjeran Pavic describing the experience as mostly positive: "The screen resolution was crisp, and the action was easy to follow... However, the fisheye lens made players seem farther away than they actually were when the action drifted. Still, I was able to watch a match from angles I have never seen before."
Others think the technology isn't ready yet. Discussing early implementations of live-streamed virtual reality fashion shows, NextVR competitor Jaunt told Racked it would be at least a year until the image quality was good enough. "I think 16 to 18 months is a fair prediction of when the technology will be capable," said Jaunt's Scott Broock. "Right now, it's in its very early stages, so it would still be lower-resolution and be subject to dropped frames, but no question, when it's ready to happen, everyone will be doing it." Until then, we'll just have to be happy with virtual reality gaming.