Virtual reality & augmented reality in sports

It is likely you already read something about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). What’s the difference between them and how can they be of value for sports?

Virtual reality is a digital technology where a reality is created and can be seen, heard or even felt by using technology. The reality is simulated and brought to consumers. By using different techniques to stimulate the senses (for example a headphone or VR-glasses), one imagines being in another world. Augmented reality on the other hand is an addition to normal reality. Augmented reality usually contains a live or indirect image of reality in which elements are added by a computer. One of the most famous examples of augmented reality is Pokémon Go, the extremely popular game for Android and iOS.

How are virtual reality and augmented reality currently used?

VR and AR are already used in different areas for marketing purposes. Game and app-developers are creating content especially for VR/AR users, PlayStation has developed their own VR-Helmet. The first VR-cinema opened in Amsterdam recently. Also, augmented reality is used to throw concerts with artists that have passed away. By creating a hologram of the artist and projecting it on stage, it looks like a real show. An example of augmented reality in sports is the Piero software, developed by Ericsson. This system uses augmented reality to analyse games and highlights. Tottenham recently used virtual reality to give a tour through the renewed White Hart Lane stadium. Sport teams use VR to analyse match fragments and improve their performance. This method was first used by Stanford University in the USA.

Virtual reality and sports

After visiting the tech event CES 2017 and presentation from Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich, Sports Illustrated stated that virtual reality will be of more importance to the spectators than it will be to the sport teams. During this presentation, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich made clear that the goal of Intel is to be a pioneer in the field of combining virtual reality and sports. More specific: users of Intel’s VR technology get the chance to pick any seat in a stadium or a sport of their choice, directly from their chair at home. Intel already experimented with virtual reality during sports games. They have installed 360 degrees replay technology at the Levi’s Stadium (home of the San Francisco 49ers). This same technology was installed at both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid’s stadium (Camp Nou and Santiago Bernabeu). By using 36 different cameras, Intel can create a 3D model of the whole stadium and offer the matches in virtual reality. This technology however generates more than two terabytes of data per minute. This is more data than the average person generates in five years. The current system is only used for highlights, expected is that the system can be used real-time within two years.

Opportunities of virtual reality inside the world of sports

The development of virtual reality offers a lot of opportunities for sponsors as well as the sports teams. For sponsors VR is a way to generate more exposure. Not only by advertising during the livestream, their advertisements are also increasing in value because of the bigger reach. Sponsor signs that would not be visible on television are now visible because of the virtual reality livestream. VR can be used as a tool to increase revenues of sport teams and organisations. By selling tickets for the virtual reality livestream next to the regular tickets, more fans can be serviced and satisfied. Next to this, the virtual reality livestream can be sold an unlimited amount of times. Not only games can be broadcasted in VR, stadium tours and press conferences can be offered online through VR. This helps intensifying the fan’s matchday experience. Another example: a marketing director gives a potential sponsor a matchday experience through VR, without having to visit the actual stadium.

As stated earlier before, virtual reality is finding its way inside the world of sports with several examples. Stadium tours and match highlights are being offered in virtual reality. Intel CEO Krzanich is convinced that virtual reality video’s will be accessible in real-time in the future. Virtual reality is expected to develop itself as an important marketing tool since there is an increase in online-video usage. In combination with connected stadiums and club apps, VR is an extra component that helps in further digitalising sports.

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