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This Week In VR Sport: VR Services For Winter Olympics

VR at the Winter Olympics, AR for Baseball and Mark Cuban talks VR’s future.

Welcome back to the weekly VRFocus feature that covers all the news on virtual reality, augmented reality and even mixed reality use in sports. Though news this week has been dominated by updates on the Samsung Gear VR, there is still plenty to report.

KT Corporation Bring 5G and VR Services to the Winter Olympics

The site of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea is being equipped with 5G technology that will enable a range of VR/AR services for fans and athletes alike. The technology is being implemented by South Korean tech company KT Corporation, who have plans to introduce 360-degree live VR of events such as Bobsled and a VR experience that allows fans to participate in a virtual Olympic Torch Relay.

An early example of this technology was demonstrated at the Mobile World Congress, where fans of figure skating were able to watch a performance by Olympic silver medallist Yuna Kim from multiple angles. There are also ambitious plans to have self-driving buses which will be fitted with an interactive system that shows the Olympics action, complete with 360-degree capability.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban Talks VR

The owner of the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team thinks that there are still a few more years to go before VR goes truly mainstream. During an interview with the SportTechie Podcast, Cuban was asked where VR was headed. He said: “Not very far for a lot of years. There’s a lot of ‘wow’ capability for virtual reality. There’s a couple of different elements when you talk virtual reality. There’s the entertainment side. It’s really cool to put on a pair of goggles, and I use VR goggles a lot. It’s very cool to put on a pair of goggles and go off a ski jump or go on a rollercoaster or tour a part of the world you’ve never seen or some things you would otherwise never have exposure to. That’s a unique ‘wow’ factor. There’s a place for that, but it’s not overly compelling to get people to use VR every day.”

Cuban went on to talk about watching live VR events, which several sporting events have begun to take an interest in. Cuban himself has been a strong investor in broadcast VR technologies. Cuban said: “Watching a live event is very, very difficult in VR particularly with the low-end goggles because depth perception is very difficult and switching between cameras is very difficult,” Cuban said. “NextVR does as good if not a better job than everybody but it’s still difficult to follow a game. It’s not something that people say, ‘You know what, I’d much rather watch it.’ Now, the easy response is that it will change over time as phones and devices become more capable but it takes more than just the phones. There’s the cameras, there’s the switching, there’s the stitching. There’s so many different things that I think we’re years away. It’s almost like the streaming industry with poster stamp-size video because of bandwidth availability. We’ll go through that same performance curve.”

It remains to be seen how accurate Cuban’s predictions will be.

Augmented Reality at Korean Baseball Stadium

Back in South Korea, baseball fans who visited the Incheon SK Happy Dream Park for the opening game on Friday were able to use augmented reality through their smartphones in order to get real-time statistics data overlaid on to the action occurring on the field. There was also a 360-degree broadcast of events at the stadium from up to eight different camera angles.

The service was provided by telecom company SK Telecom as a demonstration of the sort of things that are possible with 5G.

This Week in VR Sport will return with more news next week on VRFocus.

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