Sports fans: The future’s not near, it’s here with virtual reality

Basketball

Knect365’s Cameron Wong gives his opinion on virtual reality in the world of sport.

As an avid sports fan, the adoption of virtual reality by brands and event organisers that seek to take their audience engagement to the next level is something which greatly excites me.

We’re in the midst of two intense Conference Finals series in the NBA (National Basketball Association), all eyes are on some of the most elite athletes in the world in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Lebron James, the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russel Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

While the play has been scintillating, a lot of the excitement and action can be attributed to what’s happening off the court and how fans are consuming content and engaging with live event activations. At the beginning of May the Cavaliers activated a virtual reality feature for one of their playoff games. The proliferation of Google Cardboard may well be the inspiration behind the initiative, but the idea that VR can be accessible, inexpensive and in some ways disposable has been taken to a new level through North American Major League sport.  In conjunction with Budweiser and technology vendor YinzCam, the Cavs distributed free cardboard headsets customized with virtual reality as fans entered the arena. The headsets work in tandem with the team’s mobile application embedded with virtual reality. To bring the technology to life, the Cavs produced a series of virtual reality videos that can be viewed through a smartphone or by attaching their device to the headset. Fans using the headsets inserted their smartphone into the front of the headset, then look through the special lenses at the screen of the device that’s streaming the virtual reality content.

YouTube’s vrgamerdude shows some VR live streaming  in action during an NBA game in the video below.

Fans watching the videos on their mobile device, either as a 360-degree video or enclosed in the headset, are then immersed in the environment they are viewing. They have the ability to pan and rotate their device or headset to view the panoramic videos from different angles and perspectives, simulating a real-life experience.

The NBA has been leading the way with creating an exceptional audience experience. The opening game of the 2015 / 2016 season in October was broadcast in live in VR. The NBA and Turner Sports worked with NextVR to capture and deliver live and on-demand virtual reality. The technology brought the courtside experience to fans – even if you couldn’t make it to the Warrior’s Oracle Arena.

As recently reported by Variety, Google has been sharing some of the Odyssey 360-degree video cameras it has developed with GoPro, with the NBA using the technology to produce 360° videos for basketball fans

What we’ve seen in the sporting arenas around the world, particularly in the Major Leagues in America has been incredibly exciting, but what’s coming next – we can’t wait.

Stay tuned as we explore the myriad of industries utilising VR & AR applications ahead of the inaugural VR&AR World at London’s Excel Centre from 18 – 20 October 2016.

For more information about this year’s event, please visit the VR & AR World website.

 

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