BBC to show the Olympics live in 360-degree video

BBC Sport 360 is coming to iOS, Android and Gear VR.

AP Photo/Cathleen Allison

Watching the Olympics on TV? That's so 2012, apparently. The BBC is launching an "experimental" service on Friday that will broadcast the action in 360-degree video instead. It's not a complete replacement -- only 100 hours will be shown throughout the tournament. But it's more than a token gesture, with one live event and a highlights package planned for each day. They'll be accessible through a new BBC Sport 360 app for iOS, Android and Samsung's Gear VR headset. Coverage will also be available through BBC Taster, a website for the BBC's off-the-wall projects.

The live events will include beach volleyball, boxing, basketball and fencing. Both the opening and closing ceremonies, which bookend the tournament on August 5th and August 22nd, will also be broadcast in 360-degree video. Up to four different camera angles will be available during each event, so you can move around the court, ring or stadium to get a better look at what's happening. The BBC says it's all possible due to some trials that it held during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

If the experiment is successful, it could pave the way for more frequent and extensive VR coverage. The format is unlikely to replace traditional TV viewership -- for many people, the Olympics is a time to get people together and watch athletics as a group -- but the medium has its advantages, and could appeal to fans who want to feel like they're in the host city, cheering on their nation's best from the sidelines.