Case Study: live VR over satellite

SES/Fraunhofer HHI VR demo
Neal Romanek
November 4th 2016 at 11:00AM : By Neal Romanek

Satellite company SES and Fraunhofer HHI demonstrated VR via satellite at IBC2016

At this year's IBC Show in Amsterdam, satellite provider SES joined with Berlin's Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute to demo the transmission of a 10K x 2K panoramic video signal via satellite to multiple devices.

The panoramic signal was received at the SES stand and transmitted to an Ultra HD display, as well as a set of virtual reality head-sets. Viewers could choose viewing angle, zoom in and out, and navigate the picture on the TV display via a remote control, or wear a VR headset, receiving the identical signal.

The 360 footage was captured with Fraunhofer HHI's OmniCam-360 camera and transmitted via SES's Astra 19.2 degrees East orbital position. The main purpose of the demo was to illlustrate how VR could be transmitted as a broadcast service. 

The idea behind this demo was, that VR can also become a broadcast service," said Dr. Ralf Schäfer, Fraunhofer HHI's division director of video. "UHDTV receivers would be an ideal end device for VR if the quality is high enough. As HHI has developed high quality camera systems, like OmniCam, we can make a convincing case for such a high quality service. Most of the VR content which buzzes around now - and which has been captured with GoPro-rigs, OZOs et cetera - would not be suitable for such a service due to the limited quality.

"At the IBC demo, we transmitted the complete panorama of 9.920x1.728 pixels at 25fps. It was HEVC encoded with 21 Mbit/s. The receiving device was a PC connected to a professional satellite receiver. The decoding was in software, than a region of interest was cropped and rendered for the UHD screen. At the same time the full panorama was transcoded to a 4k stream and streamed via WLAN to VR glasses. So visitors could see the content simultaneously on an UHD screen, while navigating with a remote control and on the VR glasses.

"Of course, this set-up is not yet consumer-ready, but we have ideas on how to make a consumer product out of it. It should be possible with UHDTV receivers on the market, but modifications in the software and firmware would be required."

"Satellites are the perfect distribution path for these new kinds of video experiences, as they can manage huge volumes of data being offloaded from terrestrial networks," said Thomas Wrede, VP reception systems at SES. "Furthermore, technology standards like SAT>IP not only allow the viewers at home to pick and choose a device - the TV screen, tablet or virtual reality equipment - but also they can now choose their favourite viewing position." 


SES has will continue to demo a number of VR trials at upcoming tradeshows.