The young Rotterdam VR expert Tiledmedia is making great strides. This winter they will be streaming VR sports broadcasts from China, including for NBC Universal. The matches can be followed via multiple cameras, as if you were there. Tiledmedia is making a name for itself in entertainment and also finds other uses. Their secret? Smoothly streamed VR in super high quality. With TechTransfer, TNO is bringing technology to the market, and it has been successful here.
Imagine cheering from behind the goal when the winner falls in the Manchester derby. Moments later, you and your friends are in the grandstand while the best short track speed skaters in the world compete against each other. Unforgettable moments, which you experience with virtual reality from your own couch. That experience comes from Tiledmedia – a company of less than twenty people in Rotterdam, and a worldwide specialist in VR streaming.
As if you are really there
How exactly does a sports match in VR work? ‘You get the best experience with a headset’, says Rob Koenen, co-founder of Tiledmedia. “It really is like being in the stadium yourself.” But the VR viewer can do even more than the stadium visitor: you switch between points of view. One minute you’re sitting next to the field and looking 360 degrees around you. A little later you are sitting in a virtual skybox with your friends. In the meantime, you can also see the ‘normal’ television broadcast on a large screen across the field. ‘You have a great overview. Even the streaker: you don’t see it on TV, but you do in VR!’
VR applications in the Netherlands
Sports in VR is already a global market. Last summer, games in Tokyo were shown via the NBC Olympics VR by Xfinity app, already with technology from Tiledmedia. This winter they will provide streaming from China. Unfortunately not yet in the Netherlands, but in the US and China itself. For Sky UK and BT Sport they do the English Premier League. But a lot is happening in VR in other sectors as well. Think robbery training, Muse concert or streamed agoraphobia therapy – the latter two coming from Tiledmedia clients. VR is a solution in healthcare: give a patient a headset once, and you can offer new treatments remotely.
Super sharp image, streamed live
The image quality is crucial for the VR experience. “4K looks great on a regular TV, but in VR it’s blurry. And that’s not nice to watch’, says Koenen. So the quality has to go up. For example to 8K, four times sharper. Only: how do you send so much image quickly to the viewer?
Tiledmedia has come up with something for that. In fact, the four founders were already working on a solution in 2011, at the time still at TNO. ‘When VR suddenly became a hype in 2016, we had an application for our technology. This gives you a smooth image, in super good quality.’ The idea: divide the image into ’tiles’, and only send the viewer the tiles that are currently visible. The bandwidth is used efficiently: you can actually see all the information you send. ‘Moreover, it is scalable: you don’t need advanced technology, such as edge computing. Our solution uses common internet technology.’
Virtual reality for everyone
A tipping point seems to have been reached, and things are now going fast with VR. The Oculus app was the most downloaded app from the app store around Christmas. VR is becoming mainstream, Koenen sees. It’s no longer a gaming gadget, but versatile technology that will benefit everyone. Or for which you can spend an evening plopping on the couch.
Knowing more? Visit the Tiledmedia website.