SVG Europe Analysis: LiveLike promises sports virtual reality from a GoPro

Virtual reality promises to place viewers in the best seat in the house at live sports events but most emergent solutions require placement of a bulky, expensive multi-headed rig and use of bespoke picture-stitching software and streaming algorithms. Not so LiveLike, a San Francisco-based start-up which launched in May with a social sports viewing app for VR that makes use of broadcast cameras already in situ at a venue. The idea is to make VR capture less of the bolt-on problem which bedevilled stereo 3D, and more of a simple button push operation.

“Our product is a mobile-based virtual reality application that teleports fans to a real stadium presidential suite from where they can watch full live games and feel like they are present at the event,” explains founder and CEO Andre Lorenceau.

For ‘presidential suite’ read skybox or VIP hospitality suite. The view is one that you might get overlooking or looking down on the stadium.

“It gives broadcasters the ability to broadcast in virtual reality using an app that is complete and comfortable enough for viewers to want to spend a full game inside of,” says Lorenceau.

VR sports experiences such as NextVR’s NBA courtside views immerse the user in a 360-degree or 180-degree live environment using a custom set-up and multiple Red Dragons which can cost $500,000 a pop. LiveLike’s aim is to get sports VR content out into the market quicker by offering a more cost-effective solution.

Unlike NextVR, LiveLike’s solution uses just one camera. Unlike NextVR this won’t give a 360-degree view but by placing a wide angle lens on the camera LiveLike says it will provide a field of view up to 170-degrees.

LiveLike then wraps that video feed into their app, placing it behind the rendered glass of the virtual ‘presidential suite’.

For cameras? Lorenceau says even a GoPro can be used. “It is an easy-to-adopt solution that requires no special equipment at all, simply one fish-eye lensed camera,” he says. Close-ups of action can also be overlaid on the crowd allowing for multiple views of the action at once.

Another cool idea, which may beat Facebook-owned Oculus Rift to the punch, is the idea of social interaction. “Inside LiveLike, fans can instantly change seats to catch every goal from right behind the posts, and best of all, they can hang out with their friends on the same virtual couch to cheer together, no matter how far they actually are.”

It’s a new development for LiveLike and like the rest of the system is still a prototype but the ability to chat with multiple friends is being readied for launch early 2016.

It is also working on a way to deliver 360 video angles and on building live streaming capabilities. Currently optimised for Samsung’s GearVR, LiveLike is working with other VR platforms in time for their launch around Christmas and early 2016.

Lorenceau says the firm is already partnering with “multiple broadcasters” to bring its technology to major sports events next year. “If we can immerse you in the moments you really want to be immersed in, like scoring a goal or a touchdown, and then bring you back to your suite with your friends that will be a better overall experience,” he says.

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