Virtual Reality: Changing the Game for Sports Fans

This weekend, football fans will break out the hot wings and join friends and family across the United States to watch Super Bowl LI. With every upgrade and improvement to home television systems, fans feel closer and closer to the action of the game, hearing and seeing the players in higher and higher levels of definition.

Virtual Reality
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But the next phase in the football viewing experience offers a radical shift in the way fans experience sporting events. Virtual reality is venturing further and further into consumers’ homes – the Huffington post called VR the ‘Coolest Tech Gift for Christmas 2016.’ Last year saw many VR firsts for sports: The first Olympics with VR experiences, the first VR broadcast of the Daytona 500 and the first NBA game broadcasted in VR. Sunday’s game will be the first Super Bowl shown in virtual reality, following the first VR broadcast of Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl (Go Team Ruff!).

With limited in-person tickets, fans spread across the country, and growing broadcast audiences, professional sports and broadcasters are looking for new ways to continue to draw in and retain virtual fans. VR is currently the fastest growing form of video traffic, but Ericsson ConsumerLab found that these technologies need to become more mobile. As one early VR adopter put it, “I have wires coming out of my head.”

At the Consumer Electronics Show last month, Ericsson and Intel partnered to demonstrate the next stage in VR streaming experiences. Intel’s booth featured former NBA players dunking basketballs while VOKE 360 cameras captured the live action. Ericsson transmitted the VR live stream over pre-standard 5G to demonstrate a mobile VR environment. Visitors to Ericsson’s booth could see a 180-degree livestream of the basketball action occurring in Intel’s booth 40 feet away.

VR environment

The essential element in this mobile VR sporting experience is 5G. Without the data throughput and latency it provides, the mobile streamed sports experience with multiple VR cameras would not be possible. When would you want to have a live streamed VR experience over a mobile network? Imagine tailgating and watching the game life in VR. Or on a road trip and experiencing the game while you sit in the passenger’s seat. The possibilities are endless.

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