Feb 5, 2017: As the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas prepared for the legendary Super Bowl, several packed themselves into the stadium. Some turned to their TV screens. However, some settled to watch the live broadcast in an all-new immersive way. Geared up with Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard headsets, these fans tuned into Fox Sports’ Virtual Reality App that is powered by LiveLike, to watch their favorite sporting event. Since then LiveLike has come a long way and has successfully delivered many VR products to some of the biggest sports entertainments events in the world, including but not limited to, FIFA World Cup, the European Championship, the French Tennis Grand Slam, and the UEFA Champions League. Although the company may be little-known to most consumers outside of sports leagues, media and telecommunication companies; it has many high-profile clients, including Fox, BT, Sky, France TV, Deutsch Telekom, Hotstar, Dentsu, DirectTV, Sky Germany, Bein, ERT to name a few. Launched in 2015. LiveLike is a white-label solution company for big media with a core focus on live sporting events that allows broadcasters to stream regular or interactive content to their end users under their own brand on mobile and VR. They are headquartered in New York with offices in Paris, France (EMA) and New Delhi, India (APAC). Unlike most VR experiences that aren't consummate enough or seclude viewers, LiveLike reinvents the user experience around its core values namely Social, Interactive and ImmersiveExperiences. The company has established itself as a leading player in the sports VR space by creating some of the best technology-driven customizable platforms. "There’s an overarching theme of constant growth and innovation, the evolving product to consumer tech marketplace isn’t going to slow down and therefore, we aren’t going to either. We strive to build something that significantly changes the way people view sports and live events”, says MiheerWalavalkar, Co-founder and CEO of LiveLike.
VR and AR aren’t fads, they are some of the cutting-edge reflection of how our interaction with the machine will fundamentally evolve over time
The Ultimate Sports fan’s venue
LiveLike combines live sports streaming, immersive technology and a community of friends & fans. The experience plays back in virtual reality and in 360 degrees which can be viewed in a 'luxury virtual suite'. From here viewers can visualize the entire stadium, hear as well as see the cheering crowd in the stands. The game can be watched from multiple on-field perspectives thus improving the overall experience. On entering a separate room within the suite spectators have access to highlights, replays, and can check game stats at a single click. But what sets LiveLike's live streaming platform apart is that gives fans the ability to watch their sports game together with other enthusiasts from the comfort of their home. By either inviting their Facebook friends or joining a random audience. LiveLike thus takes the ubiquity of the screen a step forward in order to make the experience social, community-driven and highly engaging. This unique twist to live sports streaming paradigm is attributed to, “Our current leadership team has a great mix of experience and subject matter expertise. We’re incredibly diverse as we have leaders in France, India, and the US allowing us to work together to create a product that meets the needs of audiences around the world", describes Miheer.
LiveLike has been very active in making VR and has made the biggest live sports events available in VR. In the past, their VR sport experiences have often drawn bigger audiences than the top-selling VR games. The production workflows and mixed reality approach that LiveLike has pioneered is a model that others are now adopting. Consequently, LiveLike has received many awards and the co-founding team was named by Forbes in their 30 under 30 and MiheerWalavalkar was named one of 40 under 40 by Sports Business Journal.
"We’re entrepreneurs at heart. LiveLike has taken all of us on a truly incredible and challenging ride. It’s been really hard but extremely rewarding to work on the cutting-edge of Live Sports broadcasting for mixed reality", says FabriceLorenceau, Co-founder and VP of Product Strategy & Innovation. Fabrice is a technological tour de force. As the previous Founder of YouFoot-- a user-generated website for soccer that used AI-- Fabrice has always been drawn to using technology to explore new forms of storytelling. Now he is bringing his experience into something that is deeply interactive and social. "At the time, some of the cutting-edge technologies we were exploring led to the creation of LiveLike. At which point we had already gained much more experience in technology, media, sports and were overall more seasoned entrepreneurs, putting us in a better place to succeed long-term”, shares Fabrice.
Each time Fabrice talks about the evolving reality landscape his face lights up. "People say Pokemon Go is an AR game but it’s more of a Geolocation game with some AR. I think we’re going to see a few AR apps that really solve real-world problems using AR and many more app that AR features inside -- like Snapchat filters, Pokemon Go, Facebook 3D photos, etc. In fact, I think the most successful case of AR is Alexa. AR is about augmenting your life by understanding the world around you and making more natural human-computer interactions. Alexa is a huge audio Augmented Reality success story but it was never really thought of as a form of augmented reality", he pauses, "VR and AR aren’t fads, they are some of the cutting-edge reflection of how our interaction with the machine will fundamentally evolve over time". However, he acknowledges VR and AR were initially overhyped and therefore at the initial launch of AR/VR headsets they were not always timely or priced sensibly for the average consumer. "In order to make VR mainstream, you have to compete with users overall entertainment budget against well-established segments such as game consoles and mobile phones". He continued, "The greatest challenge is certainly becoming a product for mass consumption to a wider user base. For content providers, a challenge is creating a large user base to distribute to and for hardware manufacturers, the challenge is also to have enough content available on their platform to attract users to buy the headset." But he is bullish on the technology, "In the short term, I think we’ll see Standalone VR headset move toward 6DoF, then Mixed Reality. Meanwhile, AR will take a while to mature and will remain more of a B2B industry. In the long term, I’m convinced that AI, AR, and VR are some of the stepping stones of augmented humanity. We’re already taking many different steps toward augmenting the humans. It raises many technological, ethical and philosophical questions. It’s both incredibly exciting and terrifying".
Miheer Walavalkar, Co-founder & CEO, LiveLike
In days to come...
The company's focus has been focussed towards Gen Z and Millennials, many of which find traditional TV experience not engaging or immersive enough. Yet they are careful to craft experiences that could be enjoyed with or without a VR headset. Armed with this knowledge LiveLike is prepared to launch its new Mobile and Web service products in 2019-- the core selling proposition being social interaction and engagement -- which will resonate a lot with younger audiences. Fabrice is also working with their Broadcast Engineers to take their VR production to the next level with technologies like 8K or tiled delivery. Giving us a sneak-peak he reveals, "As we progress, we’re starting to expand beyond sports into live entertainment".
Who knows where their love for technology might lead us to… These are exciting times indeed.