Could VR Be the Future for Watching Sports Entertainment?

Virtual reality is changing a lot of industries up in small and big ways but one thing that is certain: As far as consumers are concerned, virtual reality and its twin augmented reality are firmly in the video game niche.

But that could be about to change as AR and VR are increasingly being looked at as potential venues for delivering other forms of entertainment such as movies, television shows, and live sporting events.

One person making a huge bet on the future of VR and sports is none other than former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, owner of the LA Clippers and himself a huge sports fan.

In what promises to be a first for the NBA, Ballmer and his team are debuting an augmented reality experience called Clippers Court Vision.

Premiering at the season opener, the Clippers Court Vision will utilize artificial intelligence and augmented reality to show such information like the line of the shot a player is taking or the percentage change he will make that shot into the basket. Basically, think NBA Live or Madden but in real time at an actual sporting event. There are two “visions” or modes on offer at the beginning, coach or player, which gives you either a macro or micro view of the action as it happens on the court.

Naturally, Ballmer doesn’t see this as a one-off experience nor does he want to keep this tech confined to just LA. His team at Second Spectrum which helped developed the technology the Clippers’ are going to use envision the “Court Vision” technology as a way to radically transform the way viewers experience sporting events. Evidence of this is most readily available in Ballmer’s tireless promotion of the technology among his fellow NBA team owners as reported by Geekwire. While his evangelism for new products is the stuff of legend, so is Ballmer’s penchant for being too enthusiastic, too early.

But in this case, he has a little bit of back up in the enthusiasm department, namely the head of the company developing the technology.

For his part, CEO Rajiv Maheswaran of Second Spectrum said: “We think everyone will watch sports this way…There will be a day when you look back and say, I can’t imagine we all used to watch the same thing at the same time. That seems silly.”

Again, the comparison with video games like Madden, FIFA, and NBA Live is immediate and tangible. But any viewer and player of sports games could tell you this is a trend that has become progressively more prevalent for years now with most television networks adopting a pseudo-video game overlay in their presentations of the event.

The new Clippers Court Vision will be available via Fox Sports Prime for viewers in the LA area. Unlike traditional games which have a 30-second delay, games broadcast through Second Spectrum’s tech have a whopping 120-second delay, a time sink that the CEO vows to shrink moving forward.

Future hopes for the tech include some level of interactivity and even deeper real-time analysis options.

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