VR Friday: SBS On Demand VR

The next revolution in entertainment will probably come from 360 degree videos that immerse you in what’s going on, and one Australian broadcaster is already there. Sort of.

It’s always great when something local is ahead of the game.

Our internet speeds aren’t, sadly, one of these things, but our appreciation for innovation can be seen at the head of the table, and quite a few local companies are starting to sink their teeth into virtual reality.

One of them is SBS, the Special Broadcasting Service, and it is taking its TV programs to the world of 360 degree video with an app for iOS and Android.

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You’ll want Google Cardboard for this — sorry Gear VR folks, this is just for the cardboard headsets out there, and anything built for the same method of viewing like the ViewMaster headset — and you only need it after you’ve loaded the video of choice.

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Unlike most Google Cardboard apps, SBS On Demand VR doesn’t switch into cardboard’s split-screen VR goodness from the get go, offering you the videos that are available on a listing and then giving you the opportunity to stick on the headset to spin around and see a 360 video as it plays.

Spin around as a chef speaks or take a gander during a live parade by looking around the place, because that’s something you can do with the Google Cardboard friendly app, and even if you don’t have a Cardboard VR viewer, you can watch it in 360 degrees by moving around you and viewing what is there on one screen.

Let Heston tell you things.

But while the SBS On Demand VR app is quite obviously a marketing gimmick for the programs on the SBS network, it’s also a rather unfulfilling one, and that’s probably because there’s nothing on the app.

By “nothing”, we mean to say that there is a grand total of three videos for you to explore in 360 degrees, two of which are for for the 2016 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, while the other is an introduction to a restaurant from Celebrity Chef Heston Blumenthal.

And that’s it.

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The videos aren’t bad, that said — mostly low bit-rate, so can appear a bit pixelated — but hardly seem enough to warrant an app launch.

A YouTube channel or series maybe, but hardly an app, especially one that has been out for a few weeks, which would surely be enough time for some homegrown content drops made for the app.

We hope SBS has more in store for its viewers, because with only a couple of videos in the system, it doesn’t seem like SBS’ virtual reality and 360 degree app is here for much of a reason, except to say it’s in VR first.

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