The Future of Sports Tech: Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is a fast growing business. The technology created this week will be irrelevant by 2017. This digital medium puts the viewer in a 3d atmosphere for a completely immersive experience and is attracting the science, technology and artistic communities. Professional sports networks have begun to engage in VR, but there is uncertainty in what directions VR should be going into further benefit athletics.

VR for the Sports Viewer

Augmented Reality has been a part of sports viewing for years. Imagine what watching a football game would be like without the first down line graphic projected onto the field, watching a baseball game without the batter’s box graphic over home plate, or watching a hockey game without the puck tracker. The next step is Virtual Reality.

A few networks have begun to experiment in VR for the streaming of sporting events. NBC and BBC streamed olympic events in Rio in VR, but due to technology limitations, they were not in real time, but 24 hours later. 360 degree camera systems we implemented into the stands of the Games, so viewers sitting on their couch in the USA could feel like they were in South America cheering their country on. The NBA and NFL have also begun to broadcast in VR. The company, NextVR was even able to cover last year’s Super Bowl.

A Next VR sideline experience: FC Barcelona Squaring off against Manchester City

The possibilities for VR in sports are endless because no one knows the extent of what VR can do because it is still in its early growing stages. “Follow Me” drone technology with VR cameras can put viewers in the perspective of the players. Microphones can already able to be installed in football helmets, and giving viewers an immersive 360 degree experience of the game could be a new sports consumer market.

 

Because VR is a realistic simulator, if movement from drones is too stimulating for viewers, stationary Vr can be set up for sporting events, 360 views of press conferences, or VR aiding in a new form of documentary.

 

As of now VR is expensive. For a good quality experience, around $1000 has to be spent. With the introduction to Virtual Reality comes the introduction to VR CGI and motion graphics, which may not appeal to the average sports viewer. Sports watching is also a social activity. Putting a computer on your face and separating yourself from the outside world, may not be the direction that sports consumers are looking for.

 

VR for the Athlete

Professional athletics teams are dependent on technology. From headsets to playbook software to stupid footballs that whistle if you don’t hold it correctly, professional athletes owe their improvements to technology. The potential that VR has to aid in practice is huge. Volumetric VR, created by the company, 8i, can create a realistic 360 degree interactive atmosphere, allowing players and coaches to walk inside and around game film to see everything. To be able to replay and analyze a game from multiple perspectives,  allowing players to have a better understanding of their positioning and play in comparison to their teammates’. Better understanding of teammate positioning and motive will lead to better communication on the field during actual play.

 

With the already invented software of “Tilt Brush,” coaches can pause VR film, walk around the environment and paint in 3d space to draw plays or highlight kinetic motions for players to focus on in life size and realt time. VR has the capability to aid coaching staff and players in game planning, physics and kinetics and post game learning.

 

VR for the Gamer

Because VR is in it’s early stages, there are very concrete and distinct ways that we use and consume it. As the technology advances, you’re going to see one form of this technology used by different groups for different reasons. Using VR videogame technology can be a market for the athlete and for the fan. Imagine being able to play as Messi but instead of seeing his avatar move on a screen when you move a controller, you look down in VR and you’re wearing his adidas because you ar Messi . Being immersed in the videogame would be a completely different and entertaining experience for the gamer, and potentially a very successful market for the sports fan.

 

Using that same videogame VR technology could also be used as simulation practice for professional athletes. You could never have another injury during practice because everyone is in their own separate room playing their sport using 360 immersive gaming. Maybe if football concussions are still a growing issue in the future, this will be the way to play the game- separate rooms, no physical tackling, virtual play.

vr-sports-challenge_football
A VERY early look at playing football in           Virtual Reality     

 

Conclusion

Because VR is in its early stages of popularity, technology and capability, it is more economically attractive to professional teams as a coaching aid. As VR equipments gets more into the hands of artists and television, there will definitely be a cheaper alternative for the media consumer and sports fanatic, should that opportunity unfold. Given today’s technology of VR and the current equipment that teams already use, the future looks very bright for VR and VR softwares for coaching staff and professional athletes.   

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