Facebook is live streaming the presidential debates with help from ABC News, and Twitter this morning announced it will host its own live streams, courtesy of a Bloomberg partnership. NBC, however, in an effort out-tech them all, will instead stream the debates in virtual reality.
Welcome to the future, where watching TV is that weird thing that only grandma still does.
At 6 PM ET, you’ll be able to “tune in” (can we still call it that?) to meet NBC’s Al Roker – well, his VR avatar – where he will debut NBC’s “Virtual Democracy Plaza.”
This is the VR version of the real “Democracy Plaza” at Rockefeller Center that NBC News runs during presidential election season, which includes a national map projected on the ice skating rink. Roker will be there to chat about his favorite moments from the plaza and to answer viewer questions, says the network.
Leading up to Election Night, NBC will host a variety of different VR events, including debate watch parties, Q&A’s with political experts, political comedy shows, and more.
The current lineup also includes MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki, who will join on Sept. 29 at 12:30 p.m. ET to analyze the state of the election, as well as CNBC’s Sharon Epperson, host of “Your Money, Your Future” and the digital video series “Retire Well.” She will arrive on Oct. 11 to answer visitors’ personal finance questions about the election.
Viewers can attend using the AltspaceVR app on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Samsung Gear VR. However, for those who are curious but lacking equipment, a 2D version of these events will be offered via Mac and PC at altvr.com/nbcnews.
Founded in 2013 and backed by over $15 million in funding, AltspaceVR officially launched its VR chat room platform in June 2015. It has since hosted a number of VR events, including film screenings, e-sports events, gamer gatherings, meetups, live concerts, comedy specials, and more.
A May event with Reggie Watts in VR may have helped to prepare the startup for this forthcoming election coverage, as it drew in the largest crowd ever and saw peak usage of over 1,200 simultaneous viewers. The company admitted technical difficulties prevented some users from getting in, and the event also helped it to uncover scaling issues it still needed to address.
Hopefully, those have been resolved in time for NBC’s election coverage. But we’ll find out tonight, it seems.