Sports Leagues Pioneer Virtual Reality-Powered Innovations

In February, Verizon hosted a virtual reality Super Bowl LII experience over a 5G network at a virtual luxury suite at Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium. That NFL/Oculus Rift collaboration put viewers on the field in the midst of 3D holographic models, and is only one of numerous examples of the marriage of professional sports and virtual reality. The BBC app, for example, offered a virtual reality World Cup experience, and NBC let viewers pick their camera angles and access data for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

VentureBeat reports that, “ultimately, virtual reality will not only revolutionize the viewing experience for sports enthusiasts, but it will also improve the game for those who play it.” That includes using VR for “next-generation training techniques” and, as advocated by NFL legend Steve Young, using it “to improve concussion protocols.” For the home viewer, TV broadcasts of sports never gave a choice of camera angles, but “streaming video may soon make the television broadcast producer’s role obsolete, as viewers at home will be able to watch the game from angles of their choosing.”

For professional sports organizations, video streaming and “advanced camera systems in athletic facilities all over the world” will mean they “will no longer have to shell out hundreds of thousands every year sending talent scouts everywhere from Rosario, Argentina, to Akron, Ohio.” The athletes who are being scouted will also “no longer be at the mercy of fate, and hope to make the dynamic play that catches a scout’s eye when they happen to be there in the stadium watching.”

The combination of “streaming video technology and machine learning … will allow teams to cull the most relevant game action and training footage in order to discover top prospects and develop them into the next legends of the game,” VB adds. Stadiums are also centers of innovative technology that offer better Internet connectivity so fans can “use concierge apps like SeatServe to order food right to their seat.” But, despite the plethora of new technologies impacting sports, “no innovation has the power to transform how we experience sports quite like VR.”