NextVR is a company that allows viewers to experience live events in virtual reality, as if they were actually there. They have partnered with other companies such as the NFL, NBA, CNN, HBO, and others in order to have audiences be fully immersed in whatever event they wish. I chose to experience an NBA game live, using the NextVR app. Initially, all I had ever known about NextVR was its affiliation with the NBA live games. It wasn’t until I searched about how to watch these games did I realize what else is offered in the app. Still, it’s pretty clear that NextVR’s main concern is live sports, as you can tell from the opening menu. Before jumping to your app store, it’s important to know that this app is only available using the Samsung Gear VR or a Google Daydream–which is lame. That being said, after viewing this on the Samsung Gear, I understand why something like Google Cardboard doesn’t make sense for this platform (not yet, anyway).
After navigating the menu, which was incredibly simple, I found the night’s live game. Since this use of technology is fairly new, the NBA only has one game available every week. Also, if you don’t have NBA League Pass, and you want to watch a game in VR, you will need to purchase it. You’ll know if it’s worth your single game subscription fee of $6.99 by the end of this review. Another quick caveat to NextVR/NBA Live, other than its headset and game price limitations, is that you will most certainly need reliable Internet. Without getting technical, I consider mine to be above average speed. However, upon clicking the play button, I got stuck with this for about 20 minutes:
Once I finally was able to watch the game, it was actually a really neat experience–for the first 5 minutes, or so. You are placed directly behind the basket, but not at a weird, blinding angle like you may expect. You can see basically all the action happening, without feeling like you’re missing anything. As possession changes, the shot fades into the opposite side of the court. Being the NBA, this happens a lot and it quickly got dizzying. There is a scoreboard right below your line of vision so you can look down to check the time and score whenever you want.
As far as how it actually looks, it leaves a bit to be desired. If you have ever played the NBA 2k video game series, then this will seem very familiar to you. The shots aren’t close enough to see specific details, so everything looks very computer generated. One of the first things you will notice though is how enormous these guys look, compared to what you’re used to seeing on tv. Maybe it’s the virtual reality speaking, but something about being right under the basket and standing by a normal-sized referee makes the players seem even taller than you’d imagine.
The court and arena in front of you are really the only things that are visible. If you were to turn to your left with your headset on, you would see where the beginning of the intended field-of-view is, and the background starts. The background is a simple graphic of the game you’re watching.
I only ended up watching the game for around 30 minutes before I felt like I’d gotten all there was to get from the experience. The app does let you watch highlights from other games and sports though, which I actually found more interesting than the game itself. The NextVR app is really well constructed, and offers a lot of neat experiences. I didn’t think the NBA Live game was worth my 7 bucks though. I felt like I could’ve gotten the same experience had I watched a simulated game on NBA 2k17 on my PS4. It may be that basketball itself isn’t a very appropriate platform for virtual reality. Other sports that the NextVR app offers, like surfing and snowboarding seem to be perfect for VR. So, if you have an applicable virtual reality headset and fast Internet speed, and you’re debating on downloading the NextVR app…do it. It’s one of, if not the best in what it specializes in and will only improve as the technology advances. Click here for more information on the app.