According to PwC, up to 23 million jobs will likely rely on virtual and augmented reality by 2030. While some professions rely on VR and AR to train employees, such as pilots and medical students, the technology behind both sectors is becoming increasingly available to the general public. Today, much of the industry is dedicated to revolutionizing recreation.
In the US, the bridge between VR and sports is clear: both deliver entertainment value to the masses. While sports fans and leagues still face challenges when it comes to programing VR and the accessibility of headsets, the future of tech and major league sports is a big win for everyone involved.
At first, most pushes to modernize inside stadiums involved wearable technology that helped athletes train and teams gather data. However, now that 5G service is available in most stadiums and arenas across the US, there are more opportunities to enhance technology and improve the entertainment value of a game—and not just using VR.
Since 2018, the US has expanded its sports betting options. In states like Michigan, Colorado, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, punters can bet live on certain events and matches. Looking to accommodate analysts who provide major-league wagers and fans interested in betting, stadium execs have made great strides to enhance bandwidth for their Wi-Fi networks.
But execs are also looking to get in on the action by creating exclusive opportunities for live and remote spectators by using VR technology. Let’s take a closer look at how VR is revolutionizing the fan experience inside stadiums.
Bringing Remote Fans Closer
Though a standard TV has served sports fans for decades by bringing increasingly clear live games straight to their living room, VR is looking to do much more. Those at home with a viable headset from groups like Oculus or HTC can literally turn their head to follow the action in a live game.
At the moment, multiple major leagues are looking to take their fans straight to the court or diamond with a top-notch VR experience. Though not without their programming issues, the NBA’s partnership with NextVR and the MLB’s Giants’ partnership with Jaunt signal the future of remote viewership.
The NBA offers a ‘League Pass VR’ package for those with an Oculus Quest Platform, which was the first of its kind when it was released in 2020. The platform takes fans courtside to view eligible live games—though it costs a pretty penny at $200 per season.
The Giants’ have also made major strides with their VR live games, offered by Samsung Gear VR and created via Jaunt’s 360-degree camera. The only catch is that the VR pass works only for home games, as it’s not a league-wide feature (yet).
Jaunt even partnered with the NFL to deliver a premier in-person VR experience for Super Bowl 50. Since then, the company has partnered individually with player Rob Gronkowski for a ProCamp in 2017, as well as a live fan ‘hologram’ experience with the Atlanta Falcons back in 2018.
Revolutionizing the Stadium Experience
While fans stuck at home are in for a treat so long as they have a VR headset from Oculus or Samsung, many stadiums are looking to enhance the fan experience by offering their own headsets. The MLB’s Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, recently incorporated a VR experience that allows fans to take a virtual tour live at the stadium and see the team up-close and personal.
Meanwhile, NASCAR is also making major strides with VR. Though the stock car racing series has had a live (and mega-successful) virtual racing league in their iRacing NASCAR series, they’ve also added a VR racing simulator to their Daytona event. Spectators can get closer to the action by competing in a virtual race while viewing a live one.
Today, fans can even use VR in order to purchase tickets in a smarter fashion. The app Rukkus allows buyers to take a virtual peek from prospective seats before purchasing their tickets. Smartphone users can easily transform their phones into VR simulators by using cardboard viewing headsets.