We’ve seen sports being broadcast in virtual reality, and it has grown in popularity over the last year or so.
The NCAA Tournament has been broadcast in its entirety the past two years. NBA games are broadcast in virtual reality each week, and its popularity is growing immensely. NFL games are also regularly produced in 360-degree video. As of late, even the MLB has joined the movement, implementing the technology in several live games this season and last season.
But none of the previous broadcasts came close to the experience a select few got to experience during Super Bowl LII between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. 20 individuals, to be exact.
It started as a project back in November, where Verizon Wireless placed two 4K virtual reality cameras in Minnesota’s U.S. Bank Stadium to test the equipment and connectivity to see if the massive Super Bowl event could handle it with how many people would be in attendance. It thrived, so they ran with it.
The end product? A virtual reality broadcast of Super Bowl LII in unreleased/exclusive 5G connection on 4K cameras.
Never been done before. No one else has this technology, but these 20 individuals got to test it out before everyone else. The testing took place in New York City at the official Verizon Wireless headquarters. They had to take turns with the equipment in a “stress test” to see just how much this technology could handle in the biggest stage, and it passed with flying colors. It was inconvenient with limited equipment to start with, but it became clear this was the future of sports virtual reality.
They got to see the event in crystal-clear video and audio quality, no lag, no connectivity issues, nothing. They got a better look at the Super Bowl than the 67,000 people that paid money to be in the stadium, and the 103 million television viewers across the nation. They got the best of both worlds as a sports fan.
And it wasn’t even some ridiculous headset/equipment that costs a couple thousand dollars. All they used was a single Google Daydream headset equipped with a Samsung Galaxy S8. That’s it. Incredible quality for the cost just about anyone can afford. Again, this is the future.
The in-your-face experience a fan in the stadium gets, from the comfort of your own home. Not the poor quality we see with some other virtual reality technologies/production, or even the “decent” quality we see from some of the other major productions being released. This was a full head above the competition.
The two cameras were called BlackMagic 4K URSA, and in order to handle the 5G technology, they had to use 800MHz bandwidth on Verizon’s 28GHz millimeter wave spectrum. It allowed for an on-field experience, as well as a fan/stadium atmosphere experience. However you wanted to watch the Super Bowl, you were able to.
Obviously this won’t replace fan participation at live sporting events, but for those struggling financially or simply like the home experience more, the technology is there for absolutely incredible virtual reality from the comfort of your own living room at a low cost.
Cliff Hagan Stadium is coming a close this summer, and with it, “The Cliff.” The Cliff is an all-out student party in the outfield of each Kentucky baseball game, where UK students and alumni come out to have a ball watching the BatCats in action. You can bring your own drinks, food, and music to tailgate while the game is going on, filled with all the C-A-T-S chants and celebration you could ever need.
In our first team project, we highlighted a fan perspective from the individuals in the audience at Cliff Hagan. With this project, we wanted to focus on the students and the memories of those at The Cliff. We were able to talk to several students who discussed their favorite times as a current and past student at baseball games and moments that meant a lot to them in the beloved outfield hangout spot. It was sentimental to a lot of them, and I feel like we captured that, along with the other wild and crazy aspects that come with The Cliff.
The HTC Vive is one of the first room-scale virtual reality headsets on the market, featuring a full “environmental” feel to the experience. In the headset, you are able to move around the room (within the “wall” built beforehand) to explore the world around you. With the initial bundle, you will receive the headset, two wireless controllers, two base stations, headphones, and link box.
This past summer, HTC brought the price of the Vive virtual reality headset down from $799 to $599, which certainly helps the cost for the consumer, but is still incredibly expensive on the market. The Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR are both in the $399-$450 neighborhood, but are a bit more limited on the technology.
The biggest issue with the Vive, along with some of the other expensive headsets such as the Rift, involves the excess cost of the laptop/computer system needed to run the software efficiently. So though you see a $599 price tag for the Vive and $400 or so for the other systems, it could run you anywhere from $1500-$2000 before you can actually use any of them.
The Vive offers over 50 full games, and dozens more demos/applications at its disposal, and are just now starting to pump out full “exclusive” games such as Fallout 4 VR and Skyrim, among others. Easily the best game I experienced with the Vive, on both a story/content/gameplay basis and the overall viewing experience, was Arizona Sunshine. This first-person zombie shooter game sets you in a deserted Arizona town in the old west, with health, weapons, and other gadgets to help fight off attacking zombies. Everything from the trigger pulls, hand movements, and interaction with other “bodies” felt incredibly real, and put you in the center of the experience.
One of the negative aspects of both the Vive and Rift experiences I found was the inclusion of cords dangling as you’re moving around the room. You obviously can’t see the world around you when the headset is on, so you may find yourself tripping over the cord and interrupting gameplay. In fact, with the cord directly attached to the computer, tripping over the cord could result in pulling off your incredibly expensive computer off the table and risking potential damage to the system.
One way to avoid this is through a standalone system, one being the Oculus Go expected to release in the coming weeks.. It is a self-contained headset that doesn’t use a computer or phone, considered a system one-step ahead of other devices such as the Gear VR and the Google Daydream. Best of all, the device is expected to start at just $199, giving you a remarkable virtual reality experience at a relatively low price.
If money isn’t an issue, the HTC Vive seems to be the more durable, higher-quality system over the Rift, PlayStation VR, etc., and likely the system to go to. The game selection and viewing quality is simply remarkable… If you can afford it. If you’re looking for bang for your buck, waiting a few weeks for the Oculus Go is easily the more valuable option.