Virtual reality: Bringing the game to you

Luke Maher, client digital manager at Initiative Melbourne
By Luke Maher, client digital manager at Initiative Melbourne | 18 February 2016
Luke Maher, client digital manager at Initiative Melbourne

The world turned its attention to the Super Bowl last week, and for many in adland the multimillion-dollar ads that punctuate the game was even more interesting than the spectacle that is NFL football.

And while we all guesstimate as to how much these ads cost to get on the air, let alone cost to produce, a more exciting conversation is starting to surface surrounding the biggest sports event on the planet - virtual reality.

Whilst watching live sporting events on TV, technology thus far has only enabled a slightly more enriched experience for the consumer, if at all. This is usually through an additional mobile app which shows a few extra stats and scores, or through the likes of Twitter and Facebook with all the chatter. Pretty basic, right? But soon this experience will be completely turned on its head – with consumers having the ability to chuck on a VR headset and be fully immersed in an experience quite unlike any other, like having a courtside view of their favourite game, or joining the pre-game huddle in the rooms.

Virtual reality – until recently considered more of a pipe dream - is starting to ramp up with all the big tech players looking at what our next Super Bowl experience might look like.

Companies such as NextVR have signed up for deals with the biggest sport leagues such as NFL and NBA to deliver virtual reality sporting events in broadcast quality, and make them available on headsets this year. An example of this occurred in October last year, when Next VR and Turner Sports were the first to live stream a major sporting event to the world. Those lucky enough to have a VR headset already were given access to their own virtual courtside seats of the opening night game of the NBA season between the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans.

In light of the Super Bowl, Microsoft released content last week which showed the power of their Hololens product, with the product soon to allow the consumer to view a NFL game unfolding in 3D across their lounge room. The VR element goes far beyond just watching through the confinement of the TV screen, to now covering the entire room with interaction.

And to even go a step beyond that, the team at Oculus (owned by Facebook) have recently released a few videos in conjunction with the NFL like the one below, that take the imagination much further – providing the user with the same view you would have if you were sitting in the stadium, or even allowing the viewer to watch the game through the eyes of a coach or player.

It begs the question: If you could have the view of inside the helmet of your favourite player, would you even bother going to the stadium anymore? For a casual fan such as myself, I know where I would rather be.

And how will advertisers rise to the occasion? The Super Bowl ads we see today are soon to be quickly outdated, with the opportunity to give the world an immersive ad experience so close to becoming actual reality.

So as thousands flocked to the local pub, sports bar or a friend’s house to watch the big game, it’s exciting to think of what will be next. The future of live sport on TV will be totally different, and soon we might find ourself right in the middle of the action.

Virtual reality will soon be the real ticket in.

By Luke Maher, client digital manager at Initiative Melbourne.

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