As the technology and wrinkles are ironed out, VR streams will certainly become more common, but virtual reality, and NextVR, won’t replace the ambience of really being there, or the detailed analysis of a meticulously produced broadcast feed. Could this still mean that VR is the next big thing for sports?
April 5, 2016
Written by: Tom Taylor
As the technology and wrinkles are ironed out, VR streams will certainly become more common, but virtual reality, and NextVR, won’t replace the ambience of really being there, or the detailed analysis of a meticulously produced broadcast feed. 21, 2016, the view from high up in the grandstands above the start/finish line at Daytona felt like the loading screen of a video game: overly vibrant colors, a landscape hazily fading away into the horizon, even a computer generated FOX Sports badge occasionally projected into the air above the racetrack. About a year ago, when Cramer, a self-confessed consumer tech gadget freak, first had the chance to experience NextVR’s system, he was dazzled by virtual courtside seats at an NBA game and field-level views of an EPL match. Soon all that owners of high-end Android phones running on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor will need to experience NextVR streams is a $15 cardboard box—the creatively named Google Cardboard VR headset.
The technology was demoed to golf fans visiting VIP tents at last summer’s U.S. Open, used to livestream the NBA champion Golden State Warriors’ opening night game against the New Orleans Pelicans in October, and to screen three Premier Boxing Champions fights in January.
Unlike in computer games, viewers in the NextVR world can’t get up and move around because the camera rigs are fixed. If NextVR, the company behind the VR broadcast of the race, has its way, this might also be the future of how we watch sports.
In essence that means that NextVR recreates being in a specific seat rather than roaming the stadium, but a consequence of this is that the experience can be less disorientating. In February FOX Sports and NextVR also announced a five-year partnership to broadcast live sports.
Raced toward the checkered flag, the NextVR feed switched to a shot of Turn 1 and missed their photo finish entirely.
This weekend Amen Corner at the Masters will be on NextVR, and later this year matches from the International Champions Cup soccer tournament will be available, too. When users are able to move around virtual environments, the disconnect between the visual perception of movement and the body’s sensation of movement can cause dizziness and nausea.
I pushed the Samsung Gear VR headset up, my eyes refocusing onto my room 2,400 miles and three time zones away in a quiet suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area. According to David Cramer, senior VP of corporate strategy at NextVR, the company has already worked with just about every sport. “We’re able to recreate a 3D geometry of the world where our cameras exist, and we’re able to take the video then and map that to that geometric model,” Cramer says.