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The BBC reinvents itself by using virtual reality

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- The British broadcaster has announced its intentions to invest heavily in new technologies and VR in order to retain its market share and take on online rivals

The BBC reinvents itself by using virtual reality
BBC director-general Tony Hall (© BBC)

The BBC has released its annual plan for the 2017-18 season, in which it mentions its intention to focus on new technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and voice control. The British broadcaster believes that this will be essential in order to retain its market share in a rapidly evolving market, which already contains many existing online rivals. Furthermore, it will help to make its content more widely available on voice-activated platforms in order to facilitate a sophisticated, intelligent search that is customisable for a younger audience that does not watch TV any more.

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The broadcaster’s director-general, Tony Hall, explained that today’s linear television would soon be obsolete, so the BBC should find new ways to justify its licence fees in the decade to come. The corporation’s ambition will be “to reinvent itself for a new generation” by adapting to new formats of shorter and more interactive videos, and by offering content that viewers will feel is more tailored to their needs. Hall also revealed that the BBC is planning to set up its own VR studio this year, but it will not be limited to that, as artificial intelligence will be used for a more personalised service. According to Hall, VR will offer viewers “a greater sense of presence that could help them to better understand — and engage with — news and current affairs, science, history and natural history”.

Apart from creating new content, the BBC will also make a part of its library available for use with 360-degree video and VR experiences. For that reason, a new mobile app, called BBC Taster VR, has just been released. This is a pilot that will allow the transformation of current programming into VR experiences by using technology from US company EEVO. Currently, a couple of projects are available, and one of the most interesting is a 360-degree video, where David Attenborough guides the viewer through six destinations from the second season of the acclaimed Planet Earth nature documentary.

Talking about the BBC’s online rivals, such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, Hall mentioned that they should not put all their eggs in one basket, as it was important to retain traditional media and venture into the online field, too. Also, he announced that the service would invest an additional £34 million (€39 million) in digital content and children’s programming up until 2020, putting the emphasis on creativity and the BBC’s presence on various social platforms. Hall underlined, “This year will be a year of great British creativity. Every part of the BBC will need to contribute to meeting this challenge.”

The annual plan can be viewed in its entirety here.

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