Those who tuned into the Super Bowl might have noticed something new if they were paying close attention. At one point during the game the camera switched to a first-person view to give the audience a chance to see the player’s perspective. This peek into first-person sports viewing has many wondering whether or not VR might become the norm for sports entertainment in the future. And even though the NFL has actually been making use of the technology for some time, it’s finally come home to the fans.
Virtual reality technology has been around since the early 1990s, but it’s only recently that it has become advanced and accessible enough to make a real impact beyond that of an interesting novelty. While many have wondered how it might be applied to movies, a better question might be how we could use VR for sports.
Teams began using headsets last year for training purposes. This allowed their players the opportunity to get more realistic practice without opening themselves to the risk of injury. This is particularly helpful for quarterbacks, who can use VR to simulate the on-field action and read the game accordingly. Both Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer and Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston have made use of the new system to help improve their games.
But it’s much more than just the athletes using VR, because the NFL is making strides to bring virtual reality to the fans as well. Super Bowl LI marked the first time the NFL tried bringing VR to the masses, and the NFL is only the tip of the virtual iceberg. These days, most of the major professional sports offer some kind of VR experience to make fans feel more connected. The NBA broadcasts a weekly game in VR, the NHL offered a VR option for last year’s All-Star Game, and the MLB gave fans the option to get up close to the home run derby. These efforts are clearly just the beginning. As the hardware becomes more available to the masses, you can expect to see even more events like these.
When it comes to mainstream entertainment, it’s more than just pro sports where we’re seeing this increased attention to VR. The technology has made its way into other mainstream forms of entertainment. In particular, the online casino industry has taken steps to take full advantage of VR. Players are made to feel like they’re inside the game itself through the use of live dealers where they interact with players in real-time. This makes the games much more dynamic and adds to the feeling of glitz and glamour of a real casino. It’s only a matter of time before this style of gameplay is adapted to proper VR headsets for a fully immersive experience. And with the application of the tech to casino gaming, it would make sense for competitive poker to also make the leap to VR, just like the other professional leagues.
Virtual reality has enabled entertainment to become more engaging than ever and soon fans will be able to enjoy most of their favorite pastimes from the comfort of their own homes. Last year was just the beginning for VR. As headsets become more affordable and ubiquitous, so too will events meant to make audiences a part of the action.