Technology / 06.11.18
VR Puts You Backstage, On Stage and at the Game … Without Actually Being There
It's looking more and more like virtual reality (VR) is the next step in the evolution of live sports and entertainment. Via new, ever-evolving immersive technologies, fans can experience live events in increasingly lifelike ways. Although these technologies can never replace the in-person experience, they may offer things live events cannot.
When engaging with VR streams and recordings, users can turn and twist their heads to look in any direction, which simulates the experience of actually attending a live event. Jacek Naglowski, chief executive of Circus Digitalis, said to BBC, “The sense of presence we can achieve in VR is incomparable to any other medium… Experiencing [a] concert in VR is something that people would be willing to pay for.”
NextVR, which calls itself “the world’s largest virtual reality broadcast platform that delivers live sports and entertainment to fans around the world,” is banking on that. The platform's current lineup ranges from front-row access at Live Nation shows, to ringside viewing of boxing and sideline locations for NFL games — all from the comfort of one’s couch.
Concerts have proven to be especially visceral for people using the NextVR app. In 2017, NextVR, Live Nation and Citi announced plans to broadcast concerts in real time in VR as part of their "Backstage With Citi" series. Participating bands and artists have included Third Eye Blind, Lady Antebellum and Slash with Jimmy Vivino & the Basic Cable Band & Friends. In addition to the VR concert experience, all of the shows have included backstage access and other special footage.
VR technology is also gaining traction among a number of companies and organizations. NextVR teamed up with NBA Digital for the second year in a row to offer on-demand VR game highlights of the NBA Finals. During the climactic series between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, fans have been able to access highlights from the NBA Finals channel within the NextVR app the day after each game of the Finals.
The partnership, though, wasn't just about the playoffs. This past season, NextVR teamed up with the NBA to bring more than two dozen live broadcasts of the games. Of those, there were two live Utah Jazz games. Fans sampling the technology for the first time soon learned that one of the most exciting aspects was being able to select the angle they wanted to watch during the games. SLC Dunk blogger Hansen James recently wrote, "NextVR doesn't have cameramen, because the viewer chooses what to look at and from where. VR broadcasts include five cameras around the court: one on each stanchion, one at center court and one on each backboard. The viewer is in complete control of what they watch and how."
Not to be outdone, Oculus last month announced the launch of a new VR concert experience dubbed Oculus Venues, which was touted to Billboard as "a way to get closer to your interests and connect with other fans, with all the sounds, lights and energy of really being there." Users will be able to toggle between a social sharing mode and a solo-viewing mode. The former enables a user to easily connect with others based on common interests or mutual friends on Facebook.
PCMA author David McMillin thinks this kind of networking assistance could establish VR as a uniquely valuable way to socialize at events. “Sure, name badges, location-based services and match-making platforms might help like-minded attendees find each other, but at most [in-person] networking receptions, colleagues tend to gather with people they already know,” he wrote in the piece. “Will wearing a VR headset more efficiently connect attendees with each other?”
Another benefit of Oculus Venues is its movement restriction. Initially, that restriction might seem unpleasant, but as Peter Rubin noted in Wired, “Part of Venue's appeal… is that you can’t physically get in each other's faces; you’re confined to your seat.” He goes on to applaud Oculus Venues’ ability to mute or report people. You can’t mute someone in real life.
For those who want to experience total event peace and quiet, Oculus Venues allows users to change their virtual seat to a solo viewing seat, wherein you’re surrounded by walls instead of other people.
VR is also working on appealing to different demographics, though millennials and Generation Z appear most excited about the possibilities of the emerging technology. Older customers are still more likely to pay ticket prices to see the Rolling Stones or Aerosmith in person while their kids and grandkids are eager to experience Imagine Dragons virtually and in 3-D. Wired recently sat down with Greenlight Insights analyst Alexis Macklin, who agreed that younger consumers were the most likely to be interested in using VR for live events moving forward. She said, "We'll see this market grow as these younger generations grow."
Macklin cited a recent Citi Research report in which analysts projected that the overall virtual reality/augmented reality market could top $692 million by 2025 and continue to grow after that.
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Tags: AR/VR , Sports , Music , Live-Streaming , Theater