The existence of competitors such as StriVR point to the viability of virtual reality training in professional sports, with advantages including increased safety and better data collection. Avoiding impacts and injuries during training means healthier, safer athletes who are in top fighting form when game time comes. Simultaneously, confining the action to a computer simulation means that every action and reaction can be shared by coaches and specialists, as well as recorded for later analysis.
The Next Generation of Live Streaming Sports in VR
Sports viewers are used to seeing a great deal of flash and sizzle in broadcasts, as epitomized by the NFL’s constant adoption of bleeding-edge technology. In the case of virtual reality, though, the affordable cost and widespread availability means that the latest tech isn’t just limited to multi-billion dollar organizations like the NFL.
Startup firm Virtually Live is committed to “Expanding the Fan Experience.” The company takes an unusual approach to bringing fans into the game. Rather than planting 360° cameras on the field, Virtually Live instead places static cameras around the stadium, covering the action from every angle. Their software then creates a computer-generated virtual environment and streams it to viewers, who can move freely through the broadcast using their commercially available head-mounted displays.
The sports match is recreated using CGI graphics, but the action is completely real. Virtually Live is in the startup phase and has not yet found widespread adoption in the United States, but the amount of press and media coverage the firm has received is promising. As a test, the company live streamed the FIA Formula E Championship, a car racing series exclusively raced by electric cars.
NextVR Brings Sports Home
Virtual reality firm NextVR was an early adopter, allowing home viewers to use their Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR head-mounted displays to virtually attend matches since 2009. Early in 2016, the firm inked a 5-year deal with Fox Sports to live stream events from college basketball to NASCAR races. The idea is a natural fit, allowing fans to gain a better view of the action than is even possible from the stadium seats.
NextVR takes a more traditional approach to sports broadcasting than Virtually Live. The firm has developed suite of patents covering highly sophisticated 360° cameras, allowing them to capture a sporting event in high definition 3D, and from all angles. Viewers can use their home equipment to virtually attend the match, turning their heads and viewing any part of the action.
Although not as quite as full-featured as Virtually Live’s free-wheeling, free-moving experience, NextVR has its advantages. Providing a live HD feed, rather than a computer generated simulation, has obvious appeal over Virtually Live’s “video game” approach. Watching a game on NextVR is more akin to a traditional broadcast than Virtually Live, which at times seems so dissociated from the actual game that some drama is lost.
Both solutions are receiving a great deal of press coverage, although NextVR at the time of this writing has landed far more actual broadcast contracts. The race between them should be fascinating to watch, and the competition can only be good for the fans.