Music is the star of the annual Coachella festival, which kicked off April 15 for the weekend and resumes April 22, but virtual reality is starting to grab its own headlines. Coachella and Vantaget.tv recently announced the launch of its own virtual reality app, which allows owners of VR headsets (either the fancy kind or the cardboard variety) to get limited VR content such as enhanced performances and virtual tours of the grounds.
Ironically Coachella targets people who are at the event in person by offering ticket holders the app and cardboard VR viewers (which sound like a dorky experience if you’re actually there). But it seems likely that Coachella, and festivals like it, will more overtly court remote viewers by offering immersive, live-streaming VR experiences, and with social components, too — especially as social VR and live-streaming converge. (An update from a fast-moving space: on April 18, a day after I wrote this post, YouTube announced the launch of 360-degree live streaming and spatial audio, which will be available for select artists appearing at Coachella April 22-24 — a big step forward in this conversation that underscores my point about festivals making the live stream more immersive.)
VR start-up Livit has already developed a way to live stream event content as a VR experience to mobile users. The Livit app, connected wirelessly to a 360fy panoramic video camera, delivers VR content to users who have downloaded the Livit app on Android and iOS devices (with no headset required).
Livit Founder and CEO Adam Blazer told FoxNews.com, “We create an experience for people that can’t physically be there to really have an immersive experience as if they were there. The combination of VR plus live is really the closest form of teleportation that we have come to yet.”
And Livit has done so already at the Ultra Music Festival.
Meanwhile, on April 17, StereoStitch launched a real-time, 360 3D video stitching software for VR live streaming. With StereoStitch, an event such as Coachella can deliver immersive, panoramic video (video stitching creates the panoramic views) using StereoStitch software and drone-mounted 3D cameras. (Another update: on April 18, after I wrote this post, GoPro announced a wireless 360-degree VR streaming experience. According to GoPro, the LiveVR system will be used in the coming months by MotoGP, AMA Pro Flat Track, and MotoAmerica.)
Author screen shot of Ice Cube via 2016 Coachella live stream.
Livit also makes it possible for people to communicate with each other through comments posted on the live stream — a form of social VR, which got a big boost recently when Facebook demoed social VR experiences at its annual F8 Developers Conference.
Experiencing events is inherently a social experience. Usually watching an event socially from the comfort of your living room means tweeting or Facebooking as we watch events such as the Academy Awards, Coachella, and the Super Bowl together. Virtual reality, coupled with social sharing, could reinvent the entire concept.
Imagine a Coachella concert goer in Chicago entering a Coachella virtual reality room to watch the Cvrches with other huge Cvrches fans, a scenario that is very plausible thanks to AltspaceVR. This company has created software that allows users with the appropriate VR headsets to communicate with each other in VR settings (think of Skype or Google Hangouts taken several steps further) while they either meet or enjoy an experience such as watching House of Cards together on Netflix in a VR room.
Author screen shot of Grimes via 2016 Coachella live stream.
And events could monetize these experiences by cozying up to advertisers with many kinds of branding opportunities, such from title sponsorships and having branded elements in VR rooms.
Coachella is the perfect venue for the converging worlds of social virtual reality and live streaming. Coachella already does an excellent job streaming concerts to people (like me) who cannot be there in person, and Coachella hosts a chat room for live streamers (and while chat rooms are hardly state-of-the art, the fact that Coachella hosts one demonstrates that the event organizers are moving in the direction of curating live social experience beyond the usual social media platforms). Clearly, Coachella digs VR. Soon, the concept of streaming Coachella may seem quaint as we hop into listening rooms, pump our arms in the air, and swoon over new music from Grimes or the 1975, right in the room with us.