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VR (Virtual Reality)

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality”, it is one of the most intriguing terms in the modern-day world. One can perhaps say that its definition carries a huge weight nowadays. It is after all one of the faster-growing technologies in the World. Its basic definition can be divided into the two words it’s made up of, ‘Virtual’ and ‘Reality’. The definition of ‘virtual’ is near and reality is what we experience as human beings. So the term ‘virtual reality’ basically means ‘near-reality’.

Virtual reality is a virtual or simulated three-dimensional environment that is generated by a computer. It helps in setting up a specific type of reality emulation. There are a few different categories of Virtual Reality available in the market, differing in their levels of involvement. The categories include:

Semi-immersive simulations. These provide a more immersive experience, in which the user is partly but not fully immersed in a virtual environment. Semi-immersive simulations closely resemble and utilize many of the same technologies found in flight simulation.

Fully-immersive simulations. These provide the most immersive implementation of virtual reality technology. In a fully-immersive simulation, hardware such as head-mounted displays and motion detecting devices are used to stimulate all of a user's senses.

Non-immersive simulations. These are the least immersive implementation of the virtual reality technologies. In a non-immersive simulation, only a subset of the senses is stimulated, allowing for peripheral awareness of the reality outside the virtual reality simulation.

The basic VR Setup:

The most basic piece of a virtual reality kit is the headset, a thick pair of goggles that go over the eyes. The expensive ones include higher quality headsets, needing to be connected to a computer to run apps and games, while the cheaper ones work with a cell phone clipped to the front of the headset.

There are also other optional accessories that are capable of enhancing the user experience. From hand controllers to treadmills, all designed to enhance the user’s simulated experience of being in another world. Hand controllers translate the real-world gestures into whatever game or application is being used or played.

VR for Sports:

Sports remain one of the domains where technology is being put to use quite aggressively. With the growth of VR the sporting experience is being amplified and becoming more involved in almost every field, ranging from consuming content to training and recruiting athletes. Virtual reality in sports is being widely adopted across the industry for a variety of uses. From a performance point of view this technology can be used to fine-tune different aspects of an athlete’s performance, for example, a golfer looking to improve their swing. Three dimensional systems can showcase various aspects of an athlete’s performance which require changing, for example, their biomechanics or technique.

An IEEE paper featuring Universities of Rennes and Belfast state that performance tracking through VR is a three-step process. The first step involves capturing athletes’ actions in a given sport. These actions are not only useful for the virtual characters’ animation but also provide a way to compare the subject’s movements in real and immersed situations. The second step concerns the animation of the virtual humanoids and their adaptation to specific constraints to modify only one part of the simulation. The third step involves the virtual environment’s presentation. With the third step being more specific and is regarding a particular sport.

Sports in the USA have in particular taken to the Technology a lot more than in other places around the world.

The VR technology is at the moment lead by a lot of start-ups, all of whom have divulged into the different implementation aspects of the technology. Beyond Sports is a VR startup that gathers player data from soccer matches in order to create 3D simulations of the game. Users wearing VR headsets are free to explore the game from anywhere in the stadium, including the perspective of players, fans or officials. The degree of freedom allows teams to can use VR for replays and rundowns and to analyze the game from different perspectives. Beyond Sports has partnered with soccer clubs like Ajax and PSV in the Netherlands.

From a fan experience perspective, VR remains mainly about steaming. Using the 360-degree cameras to capture and stream the experience to the fans, as if they were present there in the stadium. The Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games had planned streaming events through the VR device. The coverage was brought in through broadcasting networks such as the NBC and BBC. The only drawback being the events weren’t streamed until the day after they actually took place.

NextVR, a VR broadcasting startup has given VR coverage to some of the main sports events, such as the 2015 NBA opening season game between the Golden State Warriors and the New Orleans Pelicans. The NBA has made larger progress compared to the other sports in the use of VR as a fan engagement tool. Other sports and leagues though have started to look into it. NextVR helped in the live-stream broadcast of the International Champions Cup (ICC) soccer games in the USA.

Way Forward for the technology:

VR in the sporting domain is a fairly new venture. Despite the interesting start, there are visible shortcomings. VR cameras, although, create a close real-life impression, they have been found to have somewhat of a dizzying effect on the user when using the VR headset. A setback for the VR industry has been the lack of social engagement for the fans. With the use of headsets, the social experience is somehow taken away as part of the experience. The technical startup Virtually Live aims to tackle the social element with its VR offering. The technology would display a virtual reconstruction of the stadium and players in near-real time, the fans are invited to step in and view the environment from any viewpoint they want. The fans here appear as avatars and can interact with each other through VoIP.

Virtual reality has yet to manifest its full potential in sports. Various procedures could be cut short due to its use. Athletes using the VR technology can visit stadiums, locker rooms, weight rooms and practically every place and aspect of their teams without leaving their homes and stepping on a plane. The opportunities and possibilities are yet to be discovered, and we can expect a lot of things to change in the industry in the coming years owing to the VR devices and the technology.


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