What we learned about the future of VR from February’s #DSLondon

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are our topics of the month this February at Digital Sport, and on Tuesday at the offices of Publicis Media in London, we made that our point of discussion.

A panel made up James Venn, Global Project Director of Publicis Sport, Marco Delvai, Director of Content Partnerships at Jaunt VR and Jon Ford, Head of Digital Content at Tottenham Hotspur was moderated by Rupert Harris of Animal Vegetable Mineral – and VR was up for discussion.

Here’s what we learned.

Technology is catching up to the idea

We all want the ability to sit in our living rooms and watch the live football game in VR. You might miss the social element of watching sport with your friends, and you might think the idea of wearing a headset on your sofa is a strange one, but we’d certainly love to be able to do it if we really wanted to.

In order for that to happen, though, the technology needs to catch up with the idea. At the moment, TV cameras have the experience and the know-how to ensure the coverage is polished and exactly what the audience expects. In order to make it seem like the user is in the stadium, VR often has to forego the close-up footage in favour of getting a camera into the stand: but when the technology catches up to the idea that might progress.

VR needs to grow up

So far, though, VR has often been gimmicky, attempting to impress its audience rather than integrate into everyday use.

That’s mostly because the general public, en masse, don’t really have access to headsets, and as such most of the content created is based around one-off moments which impress people with the technology rather than add anything to the narrative. If VR is to persuade the public that it’s worth their investment in the technology, it has to grow up and find its niche.

Is personal training the best application of VR?

The idea that VR will somehow replace live broadcast because being at the event is clearly better than watching it on your screen at home is almost an outdated concept in some ways. Sure, being able to experience the atmosphere of a football ground during a big match is the ultimate, but TV broadcasts have become so ubiquitous that sport is almost a televisual event, and maybe we’re thinking in the wrong way about what VR can do to actually add value to people’s lives.

Maybe, then, VR’s best chance of really making an impact is in personal fitness. The ability to get people active or to make going to the gym more interesting by gamifying the experience or simulating an iconic cycling route might well be the best chance for VR to thrive.

Again, we’ll have to wait for the headset to become a little bit lighter, allowing the user to run around – or at least on a treadmill – and ensure that it’s not too hot and sweaty underneath. But maybe it’s about coming up with a way in which VR can create a unique experience, not attempt to make broadcast better.

Is AR the last great leap for smartphone innovation?

And then there’s AR. Perhaps sometimes a little forgotten as it’s not as impressive as VR, but with the ability to make everyday technology digital AR can present us with the chance to make the banal interesting.

To turn matchday programmes into a highlights package, or posters on the Underground into trailers, AR has plenty of uses in all the right areas. The problem is having to download the app in order to use it. Native integration in phones, however could change that: everyone has a phone, and if one app played every AR experience, augmented technology would have the clear advantage over VR, where access to a headset is necessary.

To learn more about VR and AR, there’s still time to sign up for our #DSManchester next on 21st Feb at University of Salford. Order your tickets below…

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 836 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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