The arrival of virtual reality on a mass scale in 2016 has already started to change the ways we entertain ourselves. While VR headsets aren’t as mainstream as consoles, they may have more potential than any tech development since smartphones to alter the entertainment landscape. This has most notably occurred through conventional video games adapted to virtual formats.
Many of these games were released last year, and more excellent examples were also recently introduced. But the most interesting thing about VR might not be how it’s helping to adapt ordinary video games, but how it could ultimately change the way we watch our favourite races. From these early VR video games we’re seeing more development in its use with spectator sports. From high-stakes table games to high-octane racing competitions, VR has the ability to put you right in the middle of the action. Here’s how we’ve started to see this path for the future of VR on the court and at the races.
The first hint of this aspect of VR development may have been with regard to the casino industry, specifically virtual poker. For a little while now, as video streaming technology has improved, online poker games have been adapting to feature known as “live-dealer games,” in which a video feed links a player to a professional dealer at an actual poker table. It made online poker more realistic than ever, and set the stage for a transition to VR. This has led to other experiences that allow users to engage in card games through virtual reality. Being able to turn your head and look at competitors as they lay out their own cards is like simulating a trip to a professional poker table at one of the tournaments you can find on television.
It’s not a stretch to imagine that in the near future we’ll be watching real professional poker tournaments from the players’ perspectives. While poker already seems to be moving in this direction, one newer form of entertainment has embraced first-person views from the start, wholly as a result of the VR movement. It’s called drone racing, and it’s become a new sport seemingly overnight. ESPN aired drone racing on national television last, this was complete with pilots controlling their drones through VR headsets that showed them the courses from the viewpoints of the drones. Spectatorship can be done in different ways, but allowing fans to enjoy the same views used by the competitors themselves seems to be part of the future of the sport.
By now you can see where the idea is heading. The idea has already been proposed that we could view the action from athletes’ eyes in more mainstream sports. Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has openly discussed the idea as a future perk in the NBA, and Euroleague basketball teams have already tried it. And this is where motorcycle racing comes in. While nothing like this has been tried on a large scale yet, it certainly looks like an opportunity for racing leagues and VR providers alike.
A motorcycle racer outfitted with cameras for VR feeds combines the different thrills connected to all the early examples mentioned above. If the fun in poker is being able to glance around the table to observe opponents, the same idea would be fascinating in Moto GP, showcasing what other racers look like to a driver as he’s going full speed. If the intrigue in drone racing is being able to see the course unfolding before your eyes, the same concept would work in much the same way on a bike.
While this isn’t something that people are talking about much right now, it’s definitely a possibility for the future. With the speed at which VR is reaching into different areas of entertainment and sports, it’s probably only a matter of time.