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Volume 26 No. 3
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Keeping It Real: Reviews Not Good For Intel's Olympic VR

The reviews are in for the Olympics’ biggest experiment yet in virtual reality, and they’re not good.

The NBC Sports VR app had an overall rating of 1.7 stars out of 5 in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play store as of Monday morning. In both cases, one-star reviews outnumbered all others combined. The reason for the negative reviews appear to run the gamut, from the design of the app itself to the quality of the 3-D video that comprised the content.

Pyeongchang 2018 marked an ambitious effort for the Olympics’ VR efforts, with new IOC sponsor Intel’s True VR technology powering 55 hours across 30 events of live VR coverage of the Olympics, distributed by Olympic Broadcasting Services to rights holders such as NBC Sports. One representative review on Google Play reads “Gives VR a bad name. Stutters, lags, crashes. No options to download videos that you might actually be able to watch. The technology is not ready, and Intel and NBC are doing it a disservice. It’s turning off the audience that they are after. Maybe we’ll talk when 5G arrives.”

In a more comprehensive review, Engadget associate editor Steve Dent wrote, “The VR market will be a completely different animal by 2020, so hopefully the next Olympics will be a breakout moment for a technology that really needs it. The Pyeongchang Games certainly weren’t.”

Rachel Metz at Technology Review wrote, “Virtual-reality programming for the Winter Olympics shows there’s still a long way to go before the tech is ready for prime time.”

CBS’s Cody Benjamin was more positive but still notes that the VR images couldn’t keep up with the fast-moving athletes in most sports.

Representatives for NBC, Intel and OBS did not reply to requests for comment.