VIRTUAL REALITY

'Like being in the stadium': 360-degree cameras to stream International Champions Cup to Chinese viewers' living rooms

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 July, 2015, 10:23am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 July, 2015, 10:52am

Mainland Chinese viewers of the 2015 International Champions Cup football tournament will be able to experience being in the stadium from the comfort of their own homes, thanks to innovative new 360-degree virtual reality streaming technology.

Hong Kong-listed Digital Domain Holdings, which runs the world's largest independent visual-effects company, has joined forced with Letv Sports, a subsidiary of Chinese internet media firm Letv Group, to introduce the new viewing experience offered by its IM360 technology to millions watching the international friendly matches in Guangzhou and Shanghai this month.

READ MORE: Fervent Chinese fans take European football giants to heart as teams look to cash in on massive market

The deal comes as a welcome development for Digital Domain, which saw its share price plummet last month amid reports that mainland Chinese businessman Che Feng, which owns a significant amount of the company's convertible bonds, was arrested by the country’s anti-graft authorities.

That arrest and the stock’s sharp fall also scuppered a proposed management buyout at the company, which posted revenue of HK$850 million last year.

The patented IM360 technology, which was developed by Canadian digital imaging firm Immersive Media, simulates the experience of being in the stadium and in the middle of the action for people who cannot attend the matches in person. Immersive Media created the first 360-degree view digital camera system and viewer technology, which was used by Google for its Street View maps application.

“Once viewers experience IM360’s lifelike 360-degree experience, we anticipate they’ll be demanding it for all their favourite events,” said Daniel Seah Ang, the chairman and chief executive of Digital Domain.

Raising such demand could help the company build up its credentials as a major technology supplier to the one of the world’s biggest media markets, which also has the largest online population.

An Ernst & Young report forecast mainland China’s media and entertainment industry to post a compound annual growth rate of 17 per cent annually from 2010 to 2015 —significantly outpacing economic growth, which has slowed down.

The report credited the country’s avid consumption of digital media and entertainment as the industry’s growth driver.

“New visual experiences are exploding across the world, impacting advertising, television, film and gaming,” Seah said.

In April, Digital Domain entered into a joint venture — IM360 — with Immersive Media to provide media and entertainment companies with high-resolution, interactive video content and virtual reality programming.

Immersive Media has made virtual 360-degree view content for the Samsung Gear VR, a head-mounted virtual reality display developed by Samsung Electronics and US technology firm Oculus. Social media giant Facebook acquired Oculus for US$2 billion in cash and stock last year.

The IM360 venture will enable brands to stream content live and on-demand to virtual reality headsets, mobile devices, websites and traditional broadcast platforms.

"By utilising live-streaming in a 360-degree atmosphere, we are planning to provide more exciting virtual reality experiences for a variety of sporting events, live performances, concerts and other popular entertainment activities in the future to bring this content to more markets in Asia," Seah said.

Digital Domain recently used the 360-degree video camera system to cover the company's staging of what it claims as Asia’s first virtual concert in Taipei, featuring the computer-generated likeness of the late Taiwanese pop diva Teresa Teng. The concert was held on May 9 to mark the 20th year since the popular singer passed away.