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SES demonstrates VR content broadcast via satellite

Virtual reality has been a buzz word at every technology trade show this year, and at last week’s IBC, the broadcasting industry’s annual jamboree, even global satellite fleet operator SES jumped on the bandwagon.

SES took advantage of the show to demonstrate the broadcast of VR content via satellite, in partnership with German research institute Fraunhöfer. The catch, though, is that the technology is still in its infancy, and the wait will be 3-5 years before its first commercial deployment – though this should align nicely with when the price of headsets at a level that appeals to the masses.

The satellite firm says it is still waiting for the commercial model to arrive, and it wants to build the ecosystem first and then roll out the content – but notes that it thinks the technology already seems capable. (It’s worth noting that this is the same company which was highly optimistic about transmitting 3D content via satellite, but that never came to fruition.)

The Luxembourg-based company says it transmitted the 10K x 2K panoramic video signal directly to UHD TVs and VR headsets. During the press event at IBC, representatives explained that the bandwidth for delivering VR content is between 22Mbps to 30Mbps, depending on whether the satellite is still or dynamic – which changes the traffic that it has to send.

Harmonic may well be providing the encoders for this project as the US firm has previously collaborated with SES Platform Services, as well as NASA, and it may well be the only encoding company out there that has the capabilities to support a project of this type and size at this stage.

The content was filmed on Fraunhofer’s OmniCam-360 camera and transmitted via the SES Astra satellite in the 19.2-degrees East orbital position. SES plans to market this for major live events with a focus on live sports and events such as concerts, as with most VR ventures outside of the gaming industry.

“There is no stadium in the world providing enough seats for all enthusiastic fans. So imagine a live event somewhere in the world – filmed with professional cameras like our OmniCam-360 and then delivered to a huge global audience via satellite. And every single viewer at home has the best seat in the middle of the show,” said Dr. Ralf Schäfer, Fraunhofer HHI’s head of video.

Thomas Wrede, VP of reception systems for SES, added: “Satellites are the perfect distribution path for these new kinds of video experiences, as they can manage huge volumes of data being offloaded from terrestrial networks. Furthermore, technology standards like SAT>IP not only allow the viewers at home to pick and choose a device – the TV screen, tablet or virtual reality equipment.”

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