Sports viewership and popularity are declining due to changes in younger generations’ behaviors and competition from non-sports entertainment. These days, there are fewer people who watch live sports on television. Instead, they go on social media like Facebook and Twitter to watch the game highlights. The popularity of eSports also poses another threat to traditional sports industry by competing for viewership and sponsorship. Consider the popularity of Twitch, a live streaming gaming platform that’s now attracted over 100 million monthly unique viewers to watch people playing games on the platform.
At Omnivirt, we work with brands and agencies in various industries to help them leverage VR/AR technology to increase brand engagement and drive more sales. We want to share our thoughts on how sports industry can adopt Virtual Reality technology to enhance the fan experience and athlete performance.
Here are four examples of how you can use VR in the sports industry:
While most people are shifting away from TV screens, VR can revolutionize the way we watch sports and attract more new viewers. By capturing matches using 360° video cameras, the audience can watch the events as an immersive experience through headsets or mobile. The capability of VR allows viewers to see what they want and focus on their favorite players. NextVR is one of the most successful startups that provides such experience by broadcasting most popular leagues such as NFL, NBA, and Wimbledon through VR. Another big player, Turner Sports, also partnered with Intel to deliver NBA experience through VR.
With a small adjustment by mounting cameras on athletes’ bodies, viewers can enhance their experience by watching the games from athletes’ point of view. Firstvision (a Spanish VR broadcasting start-up) is using this technique for their audiences in various sports events; one of them is Euroleague basketball. Soon, “attending” the Super Bowl from your couch could become the new normal.
Apart from watching sports through VR, viewers can be the athletes themselves by immersing into a virtual reality sports arena. Virtual technology has enabled sports gaming to become more immersive. Ten years ago, Wii by Nintendo enabled players to play tennis in their living rooms. Now, VR can create the much better experience that is more engaging and interactive. Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR have built platforms for VR gaming. VR Sports Challenge and BoxVR are excellent examples of VR sports games which create a life-like experience for users. We expect to see more sports games/simulations from developers in 2018.
Virtual Reality can create significant benefits for training from both athlete and coach points of view. The key to modern athlete training technique is to capture and understand player’s movement and motions as much as possible. VR technology let coaches observe their team members from different angles to understand the behavior better while athletes can also observe their performance from real matches and training sessions. Another great way of using VR in sports is for indoor training. For sports such as baseball, basketball, and tennis, athletes can practice in simulations and can adjust their technique according to system feedback. Companies like StriVR and Eon Sports created solutions that can train both amateur and professional athletes. Many professional teams in NFL, NBA, and NCAA, have already adopted VR in their training. We can see that using VR is a great way to train athletes’ mind without affecting their bodies.
Similar to the way coaches can use VR to train athletes, they can also use VR technology to scout potential athletes. This possibility will allow coaches to bring scouting to a larger scale by observing athletes performance though game simulations or VR sports games. Shortly, we might no longer see sports scouts who attend tournaments. Instead, they will observe athletes from their office using VR headsets.