Thursday 17 March 2016 2:46 pm

Sky's going big on virtual reality with VR studio and plans for Formula 1, boxing, cycling content and more

Sky is deepening its efforts in virtual reality, an industry expected to be worth $70bn by 2020, with a specialist studio producing new content, including films from the Formula 1 racetrack.

Viewers will be able to almost smell the petrol of the pit and experience the hair-raising bends of a Grand Prix track as if they are there, in new VR videos due to be released ahead of the first race of the season in Melbourne this weekend.

The two films featuring the testing track at Barcelona will be available on Oculus and Samsung Gear headsets, as well as Facebook's 360 Video platform which offers a VR-like experience but without the headsets.

A new in-house studio will be dedicated to creating VR content, including films from the sports world such as boxing and cycling as well as entertainment.

Sky also plans on creating a dedicated VR app to make this new content available. Sky invested in Silicon Valley VR startup Jaunt in 2014 and made its first foray into content with a Sky News report on the migrant crisis last year. 

Read more: Virtual reality, motion sickness and the Swayze Effect

“The Sky VR Studio allows us to add a new dimension to storytelling, taking viewers to extraordinary places and offering a unique perspective on a whole host of events," said Sky content managing director Gary Davey. 

"The development of VR technology is moving at an incredible pace and excitement is building about its potential. Our expertise across a wide range of video content, from original drama to live sport, gives us a unique ability to bring VR to life for customers. This is just the start and we’re looking forward to creating more amazing VR content and exploring the possibilities with our tech and content partners.”

By 2020, the market could be worth as much as $70bn, according to market research firm TrendForce. 

Sony is the latest hardware maker to try and get a slice of the action, this week revealing it will launch a $399 headset in October. It joins Facebook with Oculus, Samsung with Gear and Google, which plans to develop a proper headset to succeed the low-cost creation Cardboard.

The success of VR relies on both content and the devices being developed in tandem to gain a footing with consumers and Sky is one of the first major organisations in Britain to enter the VR market on the content side.