BBC experiments with virtual reality

A person wearing an Oculus Rift headset to watch news

As part of BBC experiments in immersive television, members of the public have been fitted with a virtual reality headset as they watched a 360-degree news bulletin with Fiona Bruce.

It enabled participants to look around the entire news studio and gallery as if they were there in person using an Oculus Rift device, made by a start-up in California. Facebook announced in May it will buy the company that makes it for about $2bn.

Cyrus Saihan, Future Media's head of business development, says virtual reality 'has the potential to be the next-generation platform'.

Cyrus Saihan Cyrus Saihan manages partnerships with large digital technology companies

On the BBC's Internet blog, he writes about the trials, held at NBH: '[We wanted to] see if we could make our users feel as if they were actually there in person, part of a programme and able to experience what it feels like to be behind the scenes during a news broadcast, in the studio sitting in front of a newsreader whilst they are on-air and in the centre of our bustling London newsroom.'

People's reactions to the experience varied from 'rather frightening' to giving them vertigo. Others didn't want Fiona Bruce to leave the newsroom as she got up from the newsreader's chair.

It's still very much in the early stages of development - a consumer version has not been developed yet - but the BBC is one of the first broadcasters to be experimenting with the new technology.

Saihan says: 'At the BBC, we have been at the cutting edge of media technology since 1922 (colour TV was considered a new hi-tech platform of the future when it first came out) and we are always looking for ways to create new types of content and deliver it in new ways.'


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