Playing virtual reality games is generally a blast. Watching other people enjoy VR on the web? Not so much, as viewers are often stuck looking at disembodied hands and a shaky first-person headset feed.
Fortunately, the folks at VReal are out to change that. A livestreaming platform for virtual reality, VReal allows broadcasters to immerse their viewers in their VR livestreams, turning fans into active participants rather than bored bystanders.
After testing VReal for myself at GDC 2017, it’s hard to imagine going back to watching VR broadcasts without it.
My demo started in VReal’s social hub, where I created an avatar and hung out with virtual versions of the folks walking me through the app. After getting a quick breakdown from a panda bear (who in real life was VReal’s Bryan Chu), I was transported into a livestream of VR game Surgeon Simulator: Experience Reality that was unlike any game broadcast I’ve experienced.
Once the stream started, I was hanging out in the same operating room as the person playing the game. I couldn’t alter what was happening gameplay-wise, but I could talk to the streamer, as Chu demonstrated when he gave some tips on which tools to use during the operation.
But the coolest part was the freedom I had to teleport around the game world, whether I wanted to watch over the surgeon’s shoulder or shrink down to the size of a fly and get an up close view of the exposed ribcage that he was operating on. VReal also allows you to record and play back videos of your sessions, enabling streamers to, say, break down a previous Surgeon Simulator playthrough and talk about what went right and wrong.
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While I was experiencing VReal natively on the company’s app with a virtual reality headset on, the service also promises to make VR streams more exciting for folks watching on places like Twitch and YouTube. VReal users can set up virtual cameras within the game world, meaning you’ll be able to watch the action from angles chosen by the broadcaster, and won’t be stuck watching the first-person perspective coming out of their headset.
Because of this, the company noted, you can essentially have a multi-person camera crew setting up the perfect shots from within whatever VR game or app you want to show to the world. You can already get a taste of how this works on ER VR, a weekly Twitch show in which broadcasters compete for high scores in Surgeon Simulator. It’s much closer to a full TV production than the static VR streams you currently see on Twitch.
VReal will be available widely later this year, and will be free to use for both streamers and viewers. As someone who gets most of their entertainment from Twitch and YouTube, I’m very eager to see the kind of immersive broadcasts that come out of the service – from both inside of a VR headset and on my plain old monitor.