You would have to be living under a rock for the last few years if you’ve yet to hear of the video games streaming community called Twitch. With a staggering 8.5 million daily active users, Twitch has established itself as the go to source for streaming video game content, and the fact that the average user’s session lasts over 100 minutes, proves that the company is onto something big. While some users on Twitch have begun streaming virtual reality content, if you’ve tried following along you likely have found that it’s fairly difficult and doesn’t have the same feel as watching streamed 2D games. This is because of the fact that you are only seeing what the player is seeing, meaning a lot of head bobbing and sporadic movements.
What if instead of streaming a 2D content based on a 3D virtual experience, one was able to enter into that VR experience themselves? This is exactly what one startup called VREAL is trying to accomplish. VREAL, founded by Todd Hooper, has taken the concept of Twitch and brought it into the realm of virtual reality.
“When the Oculus Rift was first Kickstarted, everybody thought it would be a socially isolating thing,” Hooper told VentureBeat. “I actually think that you can have social experiences in VR that are far more social than regular gameplay. If you can go to a virtual world with someone else, it is very social. I’m excited about getting out and showing people.”
In fact the platform is incredibly social in that users are able to not only watch a gamer interact with a virtual environment, but they too can enter the environment and interact with the gamer and other views, if so desired. Users are able to choose their own avatar, and then step inside the action, choosing to teleport themselves anywhere within the actual game to catch the action from varying viewpoints.
“We’re transforming the streaming experience where it’s like watching TV so that it’s more like a live theater experience where someone can pass the microphone to you and give you the stage for a moment,” Bryan Chu, vice president of marketing at VREAL explained. “You could speak to maybe 100,000 people in the room at the same time, or the millions of people who are watching on a traditional live-stream. That’s really what it does.”
Initially the platform will be available for both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets. If you don’t have one of these headsets, yet still want to view the action, don’t worry. Hooper says that users will be able to live-stream gameplay on a 2D display just like they would with Twitch, if they so desire. Additionally 360-degree formats will also be available where viewers can drag the video screen to change the angle of their view.
Because games will have to be able to be rendered from many different points of view at one time, developers will be required to implement the VREAL code within the game itself. VREAL claims that the process can be done within a day’s time and that the SDK is compatible with both Unreal and Unity. The company hopes to have a beta test sometime this summer as they work to integrate new social features into the platform. While this certainly seems like a groundbreaking way to view live streaming VR content, there are still questions regarding just how easy it will be to render multiple views of a game at once. One would imagine an immense amount of bandwidth will be required.
Let’s hear your thoughts on this innovative new company and what it could mean for streaming VR content in the VREAL forum on VRTalk.com.