Sky has launched a new virtual reality app, Sky VR, as part of an increased push into the medium by the broadcaster.

Sky VR will showcase immersive videos from Sky and its partners including Star Wars: Red Carpet, Anthony Joshua: Becoming World Champion and clips from Disney’s The Jungle Book.

To coincide with the app’s launch, Sky has also greenlit new VR experiences: Sky Sports: Closer featuring David Beckham and a performance from English National Ballet’s production of Giselle ahead of its forthcoming UK tour.

In his second piece of VR content for Sky Sports, available now, David Beckham is seen entering a Sky VR simulator, which takes him and the viewer to visit the world’s best sports events.

The footage was created in-house by the Sky VR Studios, in collaboration with Google. Sky said viewers will feel like they are trackside at Silverstone or have ringside seats watching Anthony Joshua.

At the other end of the creative spectrum viewers can access an immersive two-minute performance from English National Ballet’s production of Giselle, which will be available later in October.

Giselle VR will be produced by Factory 42, a new immersive content production company run by former Sky Arts boss John Cassey. It was commissioned by Neil Graham, Executive Producer of Sky VR Studios.

In addition to Giselle, Sky plans to commission a series of high-end VR experiences, under the Sky VR Exclusives label.

Produced both in-house by the Sky VR Studios and with third-party partners, the series will build on Sky existing VR commissions including Sky News – US Elections and Tutankhamun’s Tomb –The Search for Nefertiti.

At launch the Sky VR app will be home to around twenty different pieces of 360-degree video content from Sky, Disney, Fox Innovation Lab, Warner Brothers, Baobab Studios, Jaunt, Innerspace and Surround Vision.  

Content highlights in the app at launch include:  
Star Wars: Red Carpet (Sky Cinema) – get closer to the red carpet at the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Anthony Joshua: Becoming World Champion – see Anthony as you have never seen him before, as he becomes IBF world heavyweight champion
Disney – two VR experiences from The Jungle Book, enabling viewers to get up close and personal with King Louie and Kaa
Fox Innovation Lab – The Martian Sneak Peek – transports viewers to Mars to follow the film’s protagonist Mark Watney after he has been stranded on the planet
Warner Brothers – Suicide Squad: Squad 360 – viewers can see what it’s like being a member of the Suicide Squad during a scene from the film
Team Sky – Journey to the Tour – follow the team preparing for their third Tour de France
F1®  – Team Williams – lets fans go behind the scenes of the Williams team, in the pit lane and in car viewing
Sky News – Calais: The Jungle – taking viewers to the centre of the refugee crisis with footage from inside ‘The Jungle’
Baobab Studios – Invasion – a VR animation about a duo of aliens aiming to take over the world, but needing to overcome two fearsome white bunny rabbits
Jaunt – Paul McCartney: Dance Tonight – Paul takes viewers through the charming creation story of this song, and its music video

Gary Davey, Managing Director, Content at Sky, commented: “Interest in VR content is building, generating more excitement every day.  We are just at the beginning of our VR journey at Sky, launching Sky VR studios earlier this year and we are already breaking new ground.  Now comes the creative challenge of deploying this immersive experience with engaging story-telling. I am a big believer."

Stephen Nuttall, Senior Director at Google and YouTube, says: “Great storytelling from Sky, in VR, for free on YouTube, and all accessible through Google Cardboard – a winning combination! Whether you’re passionate for sports or Beckham (or both!), this great partnership enables wonderful VR experiences for all to enjoy.”

Sky has been building its interests in VR for a number of years. In 2013, the company invested in Jaunt, a US-based VR company.

Since then, Sky has been carrying out testing across a range of events including an interview in VR with David Beckham and Kirsty Gallacher, which saw him select his top three Premier League goals.

The app is available to download on a compatible mobile from Google Play or the App Store. The app will let anyone watch immersive Virtual Reality content on a Smartphone either in conjunction with a Google Cardboard headset or in 2D (360 degrees) without a headset. The app will also work when using Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift.

Staff Reporter

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