The modern world of sports has continued to grow and evolve since the invention of baseball, soccer, and basketball. The equipment, the training methods, the strategies, and the way to view your favorite teams have all changed dramatically over the years.

And it’s about to see its biggest transformation yet due to a new technology that has finally reached the mainstream: virtual reality.

Don’t believe it? Well, here’s how…

Watching Sports in Virtual Reality

Modern sports are played by millions, but the biggest impact on society is using them as an entertainment medium. An entire industry of media companies, sports bars, apparel lines and live events thrives on our rabid desire to keep up with our favorite teams and players. We root them on as if we were literally on the team, bragging when they win and coming up with excuses when they lose.

The vast majority of people view games on TV or online in regular 2D. We’d love to go to the game, but it’s too expensive, or too cold, or the seats are too far away, or we prefer to avoid the traffic, etc. Watching a TV broadcast is good, but not the same as being there in the front row.

It would be nice to believe that we all have humongous HD televisions, but most people still have to squint to see the action with the players on the screen looking three inches tall.

Enter virtual reality. Now you can stay home and get the feeling of being there simply by putting on your headset.

The benefits are enormous:

  • Everybody can have a front row seat, not just rich celebrities.
  • You can look around the arena, not just view what the broadcaster has chosen.
  • You can go to events that are hundreds or thousands of miles away without having to drive or fly, saving time, money, and the environment.
  • Players can wear small cameras, and you can get a first-person view.
  • No risk of terrorist attacks.
  • No crowds, no germs.
  • The temperature is whatever you set it at.
  • You can move to whatever seat you want to get a different view.
  • Your friends can join you.
  • You can choose your own instant replays.

Today’s VR sports viewing options are limited, and the quality is not quite up to what we desire, but the technology and cameras are improving very quickly. Within only a few years, it will be there. Sign me up.

Training for Sports in Virtual Reality

It would be great if we all had Tiger Woods’ dad to teach us golf when we were kids. Unfortunately, most children don’t have access to world-class coaches or training facilities. This severely limits their chances of becoming a professional athlete.

In the near future, that will all change thanks to virtual reality.

The amazing thing about VR is that your body is fully immersed in the experience and you can be completely tracked in six degrees of freedom. Millimeter-level accuracy is possible with full 360 room-scale (and very soon field and warehouse-scale) movement.

Watch this:

This Disney Research video shows how accurate the tracking is, making it possible to catch a VR tracked tennis ball in real-time. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

A company called STRIVR has created a VR application that allows quarterbacks to practice taking snaps and reading defenses. Without VR, a quarterback would either have to watch 2D video which isn’t as realistic to your brain and senses or get the entire team out to the practice field to run through some plays.

With STRIVR, NFL and college quarterbacks can run through hundreds of plays whenever they want and without needing anybody else. We all know that repetition is the key to learning. But does it work? Their data suggests that users can increase their reaction time by 20%. When every second counts, that can be the difference between getting sacked and getting a first down.

And in just two seasons, STRIVR teams have won nine division, conference, and NCAA championships.

Benefits of training in VR:

  • Everybody can have the world’s best coach.
  • Realistic tracking physics translates to real-world performance.
  • Can practice in a small area at home or in a garage.
  • Can practice by yourself instead of needing the full team.
  • Can practice in any weather.
  • Can receive insanely detailed feedback to help improve performance.
  • Can gamify the experience to make boring, repetitive activities more fun. Just look at how many people play Flappy Bird on their phones.

It’s still new, but VR sports training is here. The benefits are enormous, and in the next few years, the technology will make it possible for us all to become better athletes.

Getting Fit in Virtual Reality

Whether you are a competitive athlete or just want to look like one at the beach, VR can put your fitness on autopilot. The old days of boring, confusing workout routines and sharing sweat-soaked treadmills with that one weird dude in the tiny shorts are over. They never provided what people really need to get in shape: something that you can adhere to for life.

For the vast majority of people, working out is boring, painful, slow, and impossible to turn into a real habit. Virtual reality is about to change that, and it’s about time.

Our minds control our bodies. If we can do that workout or eat that healthy food, our bodies will receive the benefits. Fitness seems to be all about the physical, but actually, comes down to 100% mental. Things like video games give us pleasure and a feeling of mastery that we enjoy and want to come back to over and over. There’s a reason that the video game industry is as big as it is and growing faster than ever.

With virtual reality, we can take the addictive qualities of video games and turn them into health and fitness benefits. Your body is the controller. Your performance in the game is completely dependent on your movements.

And this isn’t the future. This is happening today.

The body-pumping benefits of VR for fitness are:

  • Can gamify movement in an immersive and addictive way, utilizing features from games like the best eSports and mobile games.
  • Focusing on the game and not just on the feeling in your lungs or biceps decreases your pain perception.
  • The more of a flow state you get into, the faster time goes by.
  • Full 360 movement in a room, warehouse, or on a field.
  • Future VR peripherals like bands, VR-tracked resistance machines, treadmills, bikes, and more will speed up fitness improvements.
  • Everybody can have the world’s best personal trainers and yoga teachers.
  • Your movements can be perfectly tracked and performance feedback can be given.

The truth is that consistency is the secret to fitness success. The gym industry has a very low member success rate and is known be slow to adopt new technology. The gyms of the 60’s are the same as the gyms today. VR is the fitness revolution we need.

Merger of eSports and Sports

With 1.8 billion worldwide players, video games are about as mainstream as you can get. It’s not just for kids… the average age is 35, and 44% are female. Naturally, people that play any type of game want to see who is the best so eSports tournaments have begun sprouting up all over the world.

Top games like League of Legends, Dota 2, and CS:GO have up to 100 million players and the most skilled vie for prizes in huge annual competitions. In August of 2017, over $24 million was awarded to the top teams in a tournament put on by Valve in Seattle.

Players of eSports have amazing reaction speed, mental acuity, and high intelligence, but they don’t usually look like athletes. Sitting on a computer all day builds a keg instead of a six-pack.

That will change in the very near future. vSports are a blend of eSports and sports where you compete in virtual reality using your full body and athleticism. Games that test your speed, endurance, motor skills, strength, and flexibility have entered the market with more being developed.

Why would you want to play a basic sport like Tennis that sticks to the laws of physics and is played on Earth when you can compete for the fate of the universe with magic, power-ups, special abilities, and insanely dynamic strategy?

Benefits of vSports over regular sports:

  • Not constrained to reality (physics, locations, etc.)
  • Can be played in a room, warehouse, or field.
  • Can compete against players all around the world in real-time or asynchronously.
  • Full performance feedback, HUD, and guidance.
  • More dynamic and interesting than your grandpa’s ping pong table.
  • Privacy.
  • Can easily be matched against somebody of your skill and fitness level.

The sports of today look extremely one dimensional compared to the fantastic worlds and abilities of eSports. They just can’t compete. It’s like comparing a 1920’s silent film to Guardians of the Galaxy.

They will merge.

Now Imagine: Putting Them All Together

When the Internet first started growing, it was obvious that it would change the way we interact, learn, work, and receive our news. It’s the same for virtual reality. It doesn’t take a visionary to see how VR will change sports viewership, training, fitness, and play.

The real insight is thinking about what happens if you combine all four.

There will be millions of future athletes from all around the world training for their favorite vSport, improving their fitness levels, competing on a global scale, with fans watching and engaging with them from inside VR. Traditional sports will evolve, adapt, or die. The Twitch generation demands it.

It’s borderline unimaginable, yet utterly inevitable. Just like ditching our CD Walkman for an iPod with a thousand songs in our pocket, we will never want to go back.