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VR's clutch play: Showing Super Bowl highlights in real time

Fans can catch the biggest plays of the game in virtual reality in real time Sunday. It could be the closest they ever get to Tom Brady and Matt Ryan.

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 27: A general view of the line of scrimmage before the snap during the game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons on September 27, 2009 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images)
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The Super Bowl will not only be televised. It'll also be shown in virtual reality.

Fox Sports said Tuesday it is partnering with LiveLike to show pivotal moments of this Sunday's big game for the first time in VR. That includes seeing whether Tom Brady can lead the New England Patriots to a fifth Super Bowl victory, or if Matt Ryan can cap off a dream season for the Atlanta Falcons with an upset win.

LiveLike is a San Francisco-based startup that specializes in showing sports in VR. The Super Bowl will have six cameras in 4K to show fans at least 16 in-game highlights (about four plays per quarter) in real time, as well as some pre- and postgame coverage, according to Fox and LiveLike. During the regular season, the NFL partnered with NextVR and Voke for a series of in-game and postgame highlights packages.

"We're going all out in terms of production for this game," said Miheer Walavalkar, co-founder and chief business officer of LiveLike. "This is all about seeing the game from a different perspective."

That perspective -- VR's immersive experience -- is one that's been gaining momentum. Tech heavyweights including Facebook, Samsung and Google have invested heavily in the new medium, which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called the future of computing. Last year saw the first big surge of VR headsets into the consumer marketplace.

Hollywood's also dabbling in VR. Last week's Sundance Film Festival brought screenings of movies like "Dear Angelica," which aimed to get you inside a painter's brain, and "Miyubi," which shows family life from the perspective of a toy robot.

VR-ready football fans can watch Sunday's game from a "virtual stadium suite" and on-field angles by strapping on a headset or by watching with a laptop or mobile device using the Fox Sports VR app for iOS, Android, Gear VR and Oculus. The goal is for the highlights in VR to enhance and not replace watching Fox's televised broadcast, Walavalkar said.

The Super Bowl in virtual reality is another notch for Fox since its deal with LiveLike began in September. That includes showing three college football games in VR: Ohio State versus Oklahoma, the annual Red River Rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas, and the Big 10 football championship.

"This is will be one heck of a test for us," said Michael Davies, Fox Sports' senior vice president for field and technical operations. "This has already been quite a learning experience, and for us to put it on a big stage like the Super Bowl, we'll be interested to see what the fans think."

And after two months of planning, Walavalkar said, the Super Bowl in VR could be a seminal moment for the evolving medium.

"We still have a long way to go in terms of VR," Walavalkar said. "Hopefully an event the magnitude of the Super Bowl will open us up to new audiences."

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