The European Tour and Tata Communications have completed the world's first test of live 360° video in 8K Ultra High Definition - the highest resolution in digital television today. The groundbreaking technology test at Sky Sports British Masters shows how the most immersive 360° video and virtual reality (VR) applications could enable fans at home and at the course to engage with the action in new ways.
Through a live 360° video in 8K feed, fans could use a VR headset to get a virtual tour of iconic European Tour venues like Walton Heath or Valderrama. The experience could be made even more immersive, enabling fans to step into Rory or Tommy's shoes for a winning putt or perfect drive.
"This proof-of-concept is part of our strategy to attract new fans to the sport by harnessing the latest digital technologies and introducing new, shorter and faster formats," said Michael Cole, Chief Technology Officer, European Tour. "With Shotclock Masters, for example, players have just 40 or 50 seconds to play a shot. We're also using more and more shot data to bring fans more engaging insights. We look forward to leveraging live 360° video in 8K to make each tournament more immersive for golf newbies and our core fan base."
Live 360°video could support the evolution of refereeing in golf. For example, by equipping key sections of the course with live 360°cameras, officials and referees could assess each shot and situation in real-time, without causing delays for players and fans. "From a refereeing perspective, live 360°video in 8k could have potential in the future to allow European Tour referees to assess shots in specific locations, remotely and in real-time," said David Garland, Director of Tour Operations, European Tour.
The world-first live 360° video feed in 8K was captured on the 18th hole of the Walton Heath Golf Club course, where fans were able to enjoy the action on a large screen, with VR headsets for a personalised viewing experience. The feed was live transcoded by Visbit, using the company's View-Optimized Streaming (VVOS) technology. This solution saves up to 80% of bandwidth, enabling the streaming of data-intensive UHD 8K video over a regular Internet connection. The 8K signal was delivered over Tata Communications' ultra-lowlatency Video Connect network and played on the Visbit 8K Live Player app on Samsung Gear VR headsets with Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphones. The 8K capturing and real-time stitching solution for the proof-of-concept was supplied by Kandao, whose Obsidian 8K VR camera uses six 4K lenses to capture the course from every angle.
"Today's sports fans are savvier than ever - they have an insatiable appetite for data and content that gives them deeper and higher quality viewing experiences," said Mehul Kapadia, Global Head of Marketing, Tata Communications. "The adoption of the Video Assistant Referee at the recent FIFA World Cup is just one example of the transformational potential of digital technologies in global sports - which benefits the players, the fans and the entire sports ecosystem. In the same way, apps with live 360° video in 8K would redefine fan engagement in golf, and even have the potential to change how the sport is refereed."
Tata Communications is the Official Global Connectivity Supplier of the European Tour, bringing video feeds from 47 European Tour tournaments in 30 countries worldwide to 40 broadcasters, reaching close to half a billion golf fans.
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