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This Week In VR Sport: Intel Continues To Develop Partners, Manchester United & WWE Look To VR

Intel’s move may freeze out NextVR, while two big brands turn to VR for the future.

The weekend is here and that means it’s time for the first of our three regular weekend features here on VRFocus. We begin, as always, buy taking a look back over the last seven days to some of the stories that you may not have known regarding all manner of sports and how they are looking to implement immersive technologies. By which we mean virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) or mixed reality (MR). As usual there’s been quite the variety of things going on, including some that has been on the cards for a while – but has somehow never happened or expressly been confirmed.

Intel Makes Another Broadcasting Deal, Teams With Turner & NBA

We begin with basketball, and news of a multiyear partnership between Turner Sports and Intel, that will see Intel become the exclusive provider of VR content NBA on Turner Network Television, better known as TNT. The deal in the latest in a series of moves into live broadcasting, partnering with major sporting events and organisations

Intel will be utilising their Intel True VR technology to produce content beginning with the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, Intel will enable fans to experience some of the biggest showdowns in the championship courtesy of the new NBA on TNT app that is due to be released shortly for Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream. As well as live content Intel is partnering with the NBA and will become its official partner on a global scale for all broadcast partners, through them bringing 360 degree volumetric video to potentially 215 countries.

This would, on the face of things also seem to leave previous partner NextVR out in the cold, although individual teams may well have their own deals.

“This is an exciting time to be a basketball fan, and we are thrilled to be working with Intel and Turner Sports to make virtual reality and 360 degree content from the NBA on TNT games available,” NBA Vice President of Global Media Distribution. Jeff Marsilio said in a statement. “We are committed to bringing the most innovative and immersive experiences possible for our fans.”

“Intel is working with leagues and sports organizations all over the world to develop and deliver the most cutting-edge immersive media experiences that will make sports more engaging for the next generation of fans.” Explained Vice President and General Manager of Intel Sports, James Carwana. “This unique partnership with the NBA will enable us to
work with official league broadcasters, including Turner Sports, to take their broadcasts to an unprecedented level and create new ways to immerse viewers in the game.”

“Turner Sports and Turner Ignite Sports have been at the forefront of delivering thrilling new experiences to fans. This unprecedented partnership, with Turner Sports as the first NBA broadcast partner to offer the latest Intel VR technology, does just that,” added Will Funk, Executive Vice President of Property Marketing and Corporate Partnerships for Turner Sports. “We look forward to bringing this partnership to life through our broadcasts, as well as telling the story behind the power of Intel’s True VR technology in other unique, unexpected ways.”

Manchester United Move Into VR For Training

This Week In VR Sport has been going for well over a year at this point and in all that time we’ve covered many a story about football teams developing an interest in VR and AR, predominantly in two areas: connecting with fans and training. Yet arguably the biggest team in football has been relatively coy in getting involved.

We have featured Manchester United a couple of times on VRFocus before, United players were involved in a 360 degree video back in February, but that was for sponsors Swissquote and not their own doing. Back in 2016 it was also revealed that former Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal had considered the possibility of using VR as part of his training scheme at the club but ultimately the decision was deferred.

Now Mi Hiepa – a partnership of Hiepa, a sports data specialist company and the Manchester based developer Mi – will be bringing their coaching system Mi Heipa Scout, which utilises gamification, to Manchester United’s academy. It is hoped it will help train the next generation of players and help hone their decision making in match situations.

“For the first time, coaches, managers, scouts and sports directors can produce rapid, standardised, measurable and comparable results from talent pools that may have been previously unmanageable.” Explain the company on their website. “At the same time existing talent can be progress-tracked and improved.  Our Elite solutions help your best players get better mentally and physically through individual training drills. Our proprietary limb tracking mechanism enables us to track the movement of a player’s feet and shins independently in 3d space.”

“The product has been developed and perfected with input from physiotherapists, sports scientists and football clubs themselves and it’s extremely rewarding that Manchester United has recognised the benefits that Mi Hiepa will deliver to its already incredibly successful youth setup,” explained Andy Etches of Mi Heipa. “We have plans for significant growth and hope to be expanding our 15-strong team in Manchester with a raft of new appointments over the coming months”

“At Manchester United we’re proactive about embracing innovative new ways of learning.” Manchester United’s Tony Strudwick added. “We were impressed by the Mi Hiepa virtual reality tool, which works by homing in on players’ decision making skills and training them in isolation. Gamification works really well with younger players and it provides the motivation they need for improvement. In the modern world of producing young footballers, this is just the kind of innovation that will give us a competitive edge.”

VRFocus will bring you more news on the developments at Mi Heipa in the future as they look to expand and secure additional partners.

VR For WWE? It’s “Custom Made” For It Says HHH

Our thrice weekly look at all things 360 degree video, Life In 360 has featured WWE on several occasions as they have experimented with producing content in that format – and its important for that format they do. Why? Because it may surprise you to know that World Wrestling Entertainment are one of the biggest portals for video on the internet. In 2014 17.7% of all livestreamed video content came from WWE, making it second only to Twitch (43.6%)

It’s important that the company stay on the cutting edge of fan engagement, as Paul Levesque was explaining to CNBC in Lisbon recently. Levesque is better known by his in-ring identity as Hunter Hearst Helmsley. aka Triple H. Nowadays though his work is more outside the ring both as the Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative for WWE, and his continued role as the founder and Senior Producer of its developmental programme NXT.

Speaking at the Web Summit technology conference earlier this week Levesque noted VR could become a part of their flagship event Wrestlemania, going forward.

“In some ways, it is kind of custom-made for what we do and I think as the technology improves it will get better and better.” Said Levesque. “Everybody wants to be there live and in person and if its Wrestlemania and you can put a headset on, or whatever that device is at the time, and you can actually put yourself on that front row sitting there experiencing it… that’s a whole different point of view.”

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