Virtual Reality (VR) has been a huge catalyst for entertainment over the past 5 years, but is it able to augment sports?
With news that the Irish Euro 2016 will be shot in VR, we look at the future of the technology and how it will change the way we view sports. Nokia’s OZO cameras will be used to live stream various football events and capture video from the tunnel, dressing room and pitch. We’ve already seen the trend of 360 degree videos ‘go viral’ on Facebook but will it really work for sports?
VR has already been used in sports like golf and American football to help people practice and perfect, but the next step is fan engagement: “Fans want to be immersed. They want to go, as close to being a part of the team as possible and to see what we see and feel what we feel. This is a way to fully infiltrate the locker room; it’s as if they are breaking the huddle.” – Akim Millington, Next Galaxy’s Director of Virtual Reality Sports and Entertainment.
For a while now VR has limited its use to sports fan due to its pre-recorded nature, but more recently VR has been able to live stream footage, a fundamental element of viewing sports. You’re now able to sit in your living room and experience the atmosphere of sitting at a real football match, which of course sounds great! But at what cost?
Sports have always been a lucrative business with some Premier League tickets going for up to £100 per ticket, so its unlikely executives will react kindly when they realise fans can have their cake and eat it too. If viewing VR sports does continue to be free, it’s possible that companies will cash in on bigger sponsorship deals and fans should expect an undesired amount of adverts popping up.
But it’s not just viewing that VR might influence; it will probably change the popularity of certain sports. Apparently, football and cricket are the most popular sports worldwide but VR will open the door of interest to extreme sports. People interacting with rock climbing on a virtual reality game will enable them to test out the sport in a safer environment. You could argue that the point of extreme sports is not to be in a safe environment but VR games may turn people into fans of more obscure sports.
Whether you think VR will take off commercially or just become another novelty, there is no denying that it’s shown us the potential future of entertainment. Yes, Oculus Rift might be expensive and inaccessible right now but as the market becomes saturated with cheaper products we’ll see more and more households having a device.
Unfortunately, the technology isn’t moving at the same speed as consumer and business demand is. If this continues companies may abandon any hopes of VR, especially if they’re trying to make a quick buck. That being said, it hasn’t stopped big sporting stadiums toying with the idea of VR. Recently, BBC Sport Wales implemented a touchline view of the national anthems during the Six Nations.
Only time will tell if VR will ‘kick off’ in sports.