NAB 2016: On the Front Lines of Live Virtual Reality

Complete Coverage: NAB Show 2016

When CNN experimented with VR for a portion of one of the political debates this year, it had to build a special platform so the camera’s presence wouldn’t be conspicuous in the middle of the stage.

And when some of Juan Santillan’s employees couldn’t understand why the CEO and cofounder of Vantage TV doted so much on his virtual reality equipment, he decided the easiest way to show them was to “just put a VR headset on them for a while.” He explained, “Trying to verbalize VR is much harder than just showing it.”

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Santillan was part of a NAB Show panel Wednesday that explored the still very new idea of live virtual reality content, especially in the sports, news or live concert events that Santillan’s company specializes in shooting.

Jason Farkas, executive producer at CNN, noted a popular nickname for a VR camera is “the empathy machine” because the camera puts viewers right in the thick of the action. 

Related: Study—Three VR Headsets Will Dominate Revenue

Wearing a headset though, can seem like an “isolating experience” for the viewer, probably because of the apparatus, and because everybody except the headset wearer is in the picture.

But Farkas said, he thinks because of the VR’s ability to put people in someone else’s shoes — virtually — the technology is “actually going to bring people together.”

Related: Attracting a Digital Crowd

And possibly in ways it’s still hard to imagine. 

Michael Davies, senior VP of field and technical operations for Fox Media Group, imagines the day VR will allow a friend living on the East Coast to seemingly watch a team play on a TV set at his best friend’s home on the West Coast, and have a totally normal conversation. 

“You will be talking to the avatar on your left,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of that kind of stuff in the future.”