10 virtual reality applications in sports in 2016

Formula E virtual reality applications

Source: Formula E

2016 has been a breakthrough year for virtual reality (VR). A lot of sports organisations have found a way to apply the technology to improve their on-field performances or the fan experience. Below a look at 10 virtual reality applications in sports this year.

1. Olympics, NBA, US Open, MLS broadcasted in VR

More and more major sports events and games are broadcasted in virtual reality. A few examples from 2016:

  • Samsung and NBC teamed up to provide content from the Rio Olympics in virtual reality.
  • The NBA and NextVR offer a game per week in VR this season.
  • The US Open, also in collaboration with NextVR, gave tennis fans a courtside view earlier this year. Highlights of several matches and additional behind-the-scenes content were available.
  • Fox Sports broadcasted the 2016 MLS final on their Sports VR app. There were extra features such as live stats and in-suite branding by Audi.
  • Content from the International Champions Cup could be watched in VR.
  • Golf fans got to see parts of The Masters in virtual reality.

2. Experience Wimbledon with Jaguar and Murray

Jaguar is the official car partner of Wimbledon and of world number one Andy Murray. During the tournament earlier this year, the car manufacturer brought fans closer to the Wimbledon experience with virtual reality. With 20,000 Google Cardboards distributed to fans, the campaign #feelwimbledon showed fans, among others, how it is to play on Centre Court.
(Video note: not all browsers support 360 video playback.)

3. EURO 2016 ‘Make Your Debut’-campaign

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During the EURO 2016 in France there were also several VR applications to improve the fan experience. Azerbaijan Oil Company SOCAR activated their debuting partnership with the European Championships by providing a VR experience in the fan village. The ‘Make Your Debut’-campaign gave fans the opportunity to step into the shoes of young players making their debut at the European tournament.

UEFA also gave limited access to Nokia to use its VR technology at EURO 2016 with the intention of streaming some of the content on YouTube.

4. Virtual reality lounge at the BNP Paribas Open

The ATP and LiveLike VR introduced a virtual reality lounge at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. The lounge offered fans a simulated visual experience as if they were sitting courtside. American player John Isner previewed the experience.

5. Experience a day in the life of the Warriors

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The Golden State Warriors, in partnership with Accenture, provided fans with the opportunity to experience a day in the life of the Warriors through virtual reality. Stadium visitors were given a VR viewer to watch the specially developed VR movie in the Warriors’ mobile application. For those without the viewer, the video could be viewed in 360 on YouTube.

6. Experience motorsports’ newcomer Formula E in VR

Formula E is a fresh, new branch in motorsports and is not afraid to try out new digital and technological innovations. Together with Virtually Live, Formula E has released a highlight experience of the second season in virtual reality. Available for free, fans can watch several battles that have taken place. The highlight also gives a preview of the upcoming VR content Formula E fans should be able to experience live in season three. 

7. PlayStation VR commercial

As official sponsor of the UEFA Champions League, PlayStation (Sony) has a great advantage when it comes to reaching football fans across the world. The company uses the opportunity to introduce the PlayStation VR to football fans. Their commercial is broadcasted around Champions League games to tease football fans and gamers to ‘live the game’ through virtual reality.

The PlayStation VR was also used in the fan zone at the Barclayse ATP World Tour Finals (tennis) in November to give fans a unique VR experience.

8. Action sports – Surfing

Action sports provide great content, so it is no surprise that GoPro is very active in this industry. VR seems to be another technology that could really provide value for action sports fans.
The World Surf League is one of the action sports organisations trying out VR. The League is giving fans a 360 view of some of the best surfing spots, like in the VR experience of Tahiti.
(Video note: not all browsers support 360 video playback.)

9. Virtuix VR eSports tournament

eSports is growing at an unbelievable rate. Deloitte Global predicted that eSports would generate global revenue of $500 million in 2016 and have an audience of close to 150 million people. eSports is the ideal industry for virtual reality as the technology can be applied to the gaming itself and fans, now often watching on live streams, can attend the games live with VR or even be in the game.

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Virtuix organised the first eSports tournament earlier this year. With Virtuix Omni, a locomotion simulation for virtual reality, the company can make eSports more active and provide a hybrid of sports and eSports.

10. Red Bull Air Race

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Red Bull is heavily invested in multiple sports, including many action sports like Air Racing. During the Red Bull Air Race in Ascot this year, fans could try a beta version of a VR computer game around the Red Bull Air Race 2016 Championship.

These are just a few examples of VR applications in sports in 2016. VR can be applied to improve sports performances and the fan experience, but also to activate sponsorships (like Audi during the MLS final) or to complement gaming and eSports.

We will likely see more smart and innovative applications of virtual reality in sports next year.

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