AUSTIN, TX – Virtual reality is featured prominently at South By Southwest Sports this year, from using it to better train athletes with Oculus Rift to how it could transform the fan experience watching basketball, football and hockey at home.
Yes, hockey, the most problematic of televised sports. The live experience is unmatched – find even the most casual hockey fan, and they’ll tell you how the arena vibe totally blows away the product on TV.
The gap has closed a bit with the advent of high definition and the potential for 3-D. But just because you can follow the puck better doesn’t mean you feel like you’re at the game.
Which is where virtual reality comes in.
The NHL had its first successful test of a 360-degree virtual reality experience at its Stadium Series game between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings last month, mounting cameras around the glass that filmed HD images in the round.
“It was wild. I could turn around as see a person sitting in back of me,” said NHL COO John Collins, who strapped on the goggles.
The test featured tech from NextVR and Samsung GALAXY Gear VR, which produced the “head-mounted displays” that streamed game footage hosted by a Los Angeles-based Cloud graphics company, OTOY. The footage could also be used on smart phones and tablets, as fans could navigate through the footage they’re streaming.
The 6K frame rate from OTOY was a ground-breaking success at the game, with plans to use a special light-field camera in the works for future tests.
It’s OTOY’s involvement that will be a game-changer: This footage wasn’t something from the archives – it was live streamed.