After nearly two years of development, Japanese wireless carrier NTT Docomo announced that it will launch an 8K VR event streaming service in March, showcasing the bandwidth and latency capabilities of 5G cellular technology. The 8KVR Live service will offer pay-per-view access to live venues, enabling users of 5G smartphones and VR headsets to witness concerts and other events from their viewing angle of choice in real time.
8KVR Live will be part of Docomo’s Shinkansen Live Connect service, a name referencing the super fast bullet trains that connect Japan’s major cities. “Toward the 5G era,” the company explains, “we aim to provide a place where everyone can enjoy the new live experience anytime and anywhere by eliminating the distance between artists and fans by using the latest video technology.” Events filmed with 8KVR Live will let users virtually experience performances from front row seats, as well as other locations in the venue.
Docomo has been at the forefront of developing 8K VR streaming technology using 5G. In 2018, it revealed an early version of the technology at a Tokyo lab, then in 2019 Docomo disclosed its system for pairing 360-degree spherical cameras and microphones with 5G base stations to record ultra high-resolution stereoscopic videos for broadcast. The company critically developed a way to distribute 8K VR videos simultaneously to large numbers of viewers, differentially distributing high-detail focus content and low-detail peripheral content based on each viewer’s current viewing angle. Similar technologies are likely to be adopted by other 5G carriers around the world over the next year.
Multiple camera angles from events will be available, Docomo says, so users will be able to switch between vantage points at will. The service will also enable direct ordering of artist-specific merchandise during performances and include AR avatars of artists that will pop up when a smartphone camera sees their real-world merchandise.
Users will be able to download an app to view 8KVR Live videos starting in mid-February, though the carrier will apparently commence paid live broadcasts on or after March 18. Akin to selling concert tickets, Docomo plans to charge separate fees for viewing the 8KVR Live content, and has priced VR performances by Japanese bands Snow Man and SixTones at ¥3,630 ($31) each.
Japanese carriers have been readying 5G services for wide-scale use at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and are expected to use similar 8K and VR technologies separately and together to broadcast live from stadiums, starting in July. Companies such as Sony, Samsung, and Huawei are releasing 8K TVs to display the ultra high-resolution broadcasts, in some cases with integrated 5G to bypass wired television feeds.