As VR becomes more popular, its uses will begin to extend beyond shooting zombies and Job Simulator. One place in the ‘real world’ where VR is already beginning to make an impact, is sport. VR can enhance the spectator experience – who wouldn’t love to experience a first person bone crunching tackle from the safety of their living room? – as well having the potential to, hopefully in the not so distant future, offer unique training methods for athletes. For example, I’m sure boxers would love the opportunity to spar opponents in an ultra-realistic VR simulation, where one realistic element that’s missing is long-term brain damage. But without further ado, the list:
American Football and therefore the NFL, is well known for their freaky superhuman athletes, and superhuman athletes are born through superhuman training. The NFL has in recent history, operated on the bleeding edge of sports science, and it should, therefore, come as no surprise that several NFL teams and college teams are already beginning to implement VR training. 3 years ago the Stanford university team developed STRIVR, a VR-based program where the player is placed into the role of the quarterback, and can execute plays as they would in the real game – minus the brain damage.
For the spectator, the nature of the whole ‘super-human athletes’ thing suggests that the majority of us mere mortals will not be able/have the desire to experience what is like to play in a Super Bowl first-hand, which is where VR comes in. Imagine having a first person view of the winning touchdown, or alternatively falling off the sofa in fright as you turn to see a 300lb monster trying to remove your head from your shoulders.
2. Extreme Sports
Now I understand that is a broad category, but it sure is easier than listing each sport that Red Bull slaps its logo on. And besides, there seems to be a new way to make sane people think you’re suicidal becoming a sport every week. But more to the point, since every budding adrenaline junkie seems to be in possession of a GoPro these days anyway, the natural progression must be VR, right? I’m sure many more people would be willing to throw themselves out of a plane or off a cliff, if it didn’t actually involve you know, throwing yourself out of a plane or off a cliff.
As I mentioned in the introduction, the ability to spar all day without endangering your long-term health would be invaluable to combat sports athletes, but also the ability for fans to experience the perspective of the fighters corners, or the reasonably priced ringside seats that are out of reach of almost everyone that isn’t an A-list celebrity, could shake up the combat sports world. Spectators could garner newfound respect for fighters that would reduce keyboard-warrior-ism, it could show the subtleties in techniques missed in normal camera angles, or alternatively provide a greater incentive to illegally stream pay-per-view events. Swings and roundabouts.
Or any other non-contact play versus an opponent rather than the clock type sports. The nature of non-contact would suggest that the risks and technical difficulties of having to strap a camera to your body while competing would be largely reduced, and the fast paced action of racquet sports would be great to watch. Volleyball could work too, I mean, I can’t quite think why, but I’m sure many more people would tune into Olympic beach volleyball if watching it felt as if you were on the court . . .
5. 100m Sprint
Imagine a world where instead of turning on the TV to watch Usain Bolt cruise to victory in one of the original and truest forms of human competition since time began, you could strap on your VR goggles and watch Usain Bolt cruise to victory in first person instead! No but seriously, the prospect of coming close to the feeling of traversing the earth at the fastest speed possible with legs, is an exciting one. Although it would be pretty gutting to be spectating the guy coming in first and seeing nothing but track for a whole 9 point whatever seconds. I already want my money back.
And there we have it. Although the technology is still being developed and there are many an obstacle to overcome, I’m sure that television companies everywhere are already salivating at the thought of the creative new ways they can charge us for watching sport. And even if they’re not, I know I am. Not literally though, that would be weird.