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Democratic presidential debate to be live-streamed in virtual reality

CNN promises a "front row seat" to next month's debate through 3D immersive virtual reality.

Is your view of the candidates in virtual reality? Josh Miller/CNET

Like to be at the Democratic presidential debate next month but can't attend in person? CNN is promising to take viewers there through the wonders of virtual reality.

CNN said Thursday that it will live-stream the October 13 debate from Las Vegas in full 3D immersive virtual reality. The Atlanta-based television news network is offering viewers a "front-row seat" to the debate through a partnership with NextVR, a virtual-reality company that broadcasts sporting events in virtual reality via Samsung's Gear VR headset.

"Users are able to hold a gaze on a particular candidate, catch off-screen interactions and more," CNN said in a statement. "Each and every viewer has a seat in the room and a new perspective on presidential debates."

Once confined to the realm of science-fiction movies like Walt Disney's "Tron," virtual reality has attracted the attention of companies large and small that see the real-world transformative potential of a headset that can transport users to a computer-generated environment.

Nearly every major company in the technology industry -- Sony, Google, Samsung, Facebook -- has a VR project in the works. Even NASA is involved in VR.

Analysts are already predicting a splash. About 3 million VR headsets are expected to sell next year, according to a report from industry watcher Juniper Research. By 2020, the figure is expected to jump 10 times, to 30 million.

CNN and Laguna Beach, California-based NextVR also teamed up to create a virtual reality experience during CNN's Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library last week, though the network is billing the Democratic debate as the first-ever live-streamed virtual reality news event. CNN didn't immediately respond to a request for more information on its plans for using the technology during future debates.