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Putting Sports Fans in The Game with Virtual Technology

Virtual reality has been creating waves in the tech world for years now. And, though to date we’ve only really seen the technology introduced to the gaming industry, it may be the sports industry that takes VR (virtual technology) to the next level.

Virtual reality technology has its roots in gaming, where demonstrations and previews have long titillated and enticed delegates at conventions. But, with the release of the Oculus Rift in March this year, consumers are now able to get their first real taste of what the technology is capable of.

virtualrealitycollegefootballmichiganjimharbaugh6304Whilst VR may be transforming gaming, the sports industry has plans to bring the technology to an even larger audience. The NHL, NASCAR, MLN, and NBA are all experimenting with VR tech in the hope of creating a more immersive viewing experience than ever before.

Though the most exciting developments are yet to come, VR’s integration into the world of sports has already begun. In fact, in June 2015, the first ever multi-camera live VR broadcast took place at the US Open golf tournament. The broadcast, a joint effort between Fox Sports and NextVR, was an ambitious attempt to demonstrate how VR tech is able to enhance fans’ experiences.

Those lucky enough to take part in the experiment were transported to the green at Chambers Bay, about 30 feet away from the action, and were able to see, in full 3D, the players’ expressions before and after they sent their balls soaring through the air, as well as hear, in surround sound, the crowd around them and the players talking on the course.

Though the equipment required to make such experiences attainable for the average sports fan is not yet commercially available, VR developers promise that soon viewers will be able to, from the comfort of their couch, fully immerse them in the events they’re interested in.

Some have questioned whether sports fans will be willing to pay the (admittedly high) price for the tech required to facilitate these experiences. But the fact that sports fans are notoriously willing to part with their hard-earned cash in order to get the best experience will be of much comfort to those involved in developing VR. Scalped tickets for the Super Bowl, for example, reportedly went for $4,800, and tickets to Mayweather vs Pacquiao reached as much as $85,000.

Indeed, virtual reality production companies, in conjunction with many major sporting leagues, are gearing up to introduce VR to almost every significant sporting event. The hope is that, using specialised goggles, viewers will soon be able to tune-in to a stereoscopically filmed transmission broadcast over the internet in order to create the illusion that they are right at the heart of the action.

It’s certainly a very exciting time to be a sports fan, and it’s also an exciting time for those working in the VR industry: the combination of sports and VR tech could be set to become one of the most exciting and lucrative developments to happen to the sports industry in decades.

What do you think? Will VR take off in sports? Let us know with a comment!

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