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This Week in VR Sport: A Sporting Rivalry Broadcast Live & When 360 Degree Video Gets Awkward

Stanford University get creative, Reading’s players get self-conscious and differing fortunes for AltSpaceVR and NextVR.

Sometimes when it comes to writing our weekly feature on the various things occurring as the world of sport meets that of virtual reality (VR) – or indeed augmented reality (AR) for that matter –  there is only one or perhaps two stories.  However, this week we’re flush with four items to cover football, American football and more. So let’s get into those, shall we?

NextVR Bring ‘El Clásico’ To VR

We start with football, where for the majority of leagues it is the off-season, certainly those in Europe. It’s a time here managers and coaches make their plans for the season ahead but also a time where clubs engage in a variety of lucrative tours, playing in one-off exhibition games, fundraisers, as well as leagues and cups with other clubs from around the world.

NextVR have pounced on an opportunity with one of these tours which will see, today, the two biggest teams from Spain’s top flight, La Liga, battle it out. Those are of course the great footballing powerhouses Barcelona and Real Madrid. Eternal rivals, their matches long ago given the nickname ‘El Clásico’. For once it is the American audience who will get the opportunity to see the game take place at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. But you can too if you’ve got a Samsung Gear VR.

Head on over to the Oculus Store and subscribe to gain access to the ICC Channel in the NextVR app where you’ll be able to enjoy the broadcast either in Spanish or English.

Reading Welcome Their New Kit (Sort Of)

You may recall last week’s edition of This Week In VR Sport (if you see what I mean) where NBA side the Sacramento Kings unveiled what would be their their new Nike uniforms using an augmented reality (AR) app. Well, over in England Championship football club Reading have also been revealing their kit for the 2017-2018 season. But they’ve done so using 360 degree video.

Filmed in the dressing room, members of the squad got to see the kit they’ll be wearing next season for the first time whilst players Joey van den Berg and Liam Moore model play the somewhat reluctant models. Actually the whole thing is notable not for the announcement but just by how… off it feels. Like no one’s comfortable being filmed in this way.

Still, one for the footy fans and that orange away kit actually looks really nice.

AltSpaceVR’s Brazilian Swansong

Yesterday we brought you the sad news of the closure of VR social app AltSpaceVR. One of the early trail blazers in what could be possible in VR, the company revealed on Friday morning that owing to funding issues they could not “afford to keep the virtual lights on anymore”.

Quite the shame because at the end of last week AltSpaceVR had one of their most mainstream media appearances – and it had to do with sport.

As reported by SVG News, AltSpaceVR and LX Sports Group announced a new partnership with top sports broadcaster ESPN Brazil. Hosting the virtual programme ESPN & Cairo Santos in VR, Santos being a Brazilian player for the Kansas City Chiefs. In the programme ESPN used AltSpaceVR, for its intended purpose – a social platform where people can meet others from all over the world.  Producing an interview with what was essentially a live audience from around the world.

Erica Booze, the CEO of LX Sports Group said on the initial announcement: “Shortening the distance between an athlete and their fans through technology has motivated us to broker this unique experience for sports fans. By uniting the visibility of ESPN with AltspaceVR technology, we expect an excellent experience in both Brazil and the United States.”

ESPN Brazil’s VP of Journalism and Production João Palomino added, “ESPN wants to bring sports fans into our studios, creating a unique kind of interaction and taking a step forward in offering multi-platform content. We are driven to innovate in ways that will allow us to serve our fans better.”

It will be interesting to see if ESPN will attempt similar broadcasts in the future with altenate services – perhaps Facebook’s Avatars system?

Stanford University’s Experiments Continue

Back to America now where the Stanford University’s sports department have been utilizing 360 degree video to bring students a new way of interacting with the various sports and athletics teams. Covering everything from American football to a very interesting video on fencing in which the viewer takes on someone one-on-one with additional effects, to wrestling. This is the latest use of VR by the university who have featured on VRFocus numerous times, including their work performing tests with the NFL, appearances at conventions to discuss the uses of VR, and investigating how VR can be used to combat phobias.

Faculty discuss their efforts at length in this piece by SportTechie where they  do note that people may be losing out on the experience, simply by not using a compatible VR head mounted display (HMD) to view the footage.

“This is a good example of the biggest problem with any VR that we’re producing or anyone else is producing — most people don’t watch it as it is intended.” Said Heath Trabue, Stanford Athletics’ Director of video services ruefully. “A very small percentage of folks are watching VR content on a headset. It’s going to be mostly on a phone or on not so good 4G. There are a lot of bad experiences with it in that sense.”

You can see the fencing video below.



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