Technicolor: We will have VR demo for cable by Q1 of next year

BOSTON -- Cable vendor Technicolor plans to bring a working VR demonstration to next year's INTX show, a further indication of the cable industry's increasing interest in the virtual reality space in general.

"We'll make a first demo vehicle that we won't sell," Gary Gutknecht, SVP of broadband and video solutions for Technicolor, said here on the sidelines of the INTX show. He said that demo will likely be ready by the first quarter of next year.

Gutknecht explained that the company is developing the VR demo in order to bring it to trade shows and other events in order to highlight how the technology might benefit the company's cable operator customers and others.

"We are prototyping a device for the home," added Luis Martinez Amago, head of Technicolor's U.S. business.

Technicolor executives said that cable operators may well find a position in the VR business beyond simply providing an internet connection for the devices. If VR content becomes popular, cable operators may begin supplying such content through their existing video systems. However, exactly how cable operators might play in the bandwidth-heavy VR business remains unclear.

Already today companies ranging from Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) to Samsung are selling commercial VR gadgets. Facebook's Oculus Rift VR gadget is available for $599.99, and Samsung's Gear VR, which can display Oculus VR content, is $99 and requires a Samsung Galaxy device. Other companies entering the VR gadget field include HTC, PlayStation and others. Google itself is expected to announce its own Android VR headset at the company's developer event tomorrow.

And a growing number of content companies have begun producing virtual reality content, ranging from news stories from the New York Times to VR games from indie producers.

VR is a popular topic here at the INTX show. Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is among a handful of companies showing off VR content at its booth. Indeed, Comcast recently joined Time Warner Inc. in generating a $30.5 million funding round for NextVR, a Laguna Beach, Calif., startup that broadcasts events in virtual reality.

But even if cable operators don't get into the VR game directly, they still may benefit. Vendor Arris recently noted that streaming a 720p video in an immersive 360-degree format will require a minimum of 17 Mbps internet connection, which could encourage customers to upgrade their cable internet speeds just as cable operators are upgrading to the faster DOCSIS 3.1 specification.

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