Make sure you read part 1 before jumping into this article. It sets the scene for the future vision of virtual reality sports and picks up where part 1 leaves off in the vSports battle…let the games begin!
I slide on my hero-vision viewing glasses and am transported to the vSports arena where I am viewing the battle from the eyes of my favorite virtual reality sports athlete, PJ. With this hero-vision, I can quickly jump my view to different perspectives at will and follow all the action. I see PJ join forces with the other 5 members of his team, Team Ballistic.
AlliQuick, one of the most agile athletes on Team Ballistic is known for her accuracy and form. In reality, she is a former army ranger who fought in countless REAL battles, risking her life to protect her country. In the Black Box, she performs like she has been transported back to the battlefield, showing a warlike fervor in gameplay. Her hero character in the battle looks like a mix between G.I. Jane and Katniss Everdeen.
Her trademark ingame combo is a mix of high intensity jumps with quick, cross-body wood chop movements, then transitions straight into a punishing set of cross-body punching movements with resistance. She has the stamina of a world-class athlete and the viciousness of a viper.
Then there’s the star of Team Ballistic, GoldReaper. He literally won a gold medal as a decathlete in the 2020 Olympic Games but became a vSports athlete quickly after discovering the lucrative sponsorship opportunities. This guy has to be one of the most coordinated people on the planet and knows exactly how to rack up the most points in the most efficient ways for Team Ballistic. He isn’t the strongest team member (that’s PJ), he isn’t even the fastest team member (that’s AlliQuick), but the balance of his physical attributes mixed with his ingame skills makes him Team Ballistic’s highest point scorer.
His ingame character matches closely to his real world body. He is the most proportionate human being I have ever seen. Strong legs, core and upper body, it’s no wonder GoldReaper dominates.
The other 3 members of Team Ballistic are Sleek7, TheWorm, and GutsChow. These guys are all known for their well-rounded performances in supporting the team and jumping between offense and defense. It takes a perfectly balanced team to compete at this level.
With Team Aura’s defenses low, and each member gulping for air I see Team Ballistic start to make their move. I can tell the athletes on Team Aura are reaching the limit of their endurance and strength. They can no longer hold off Team Ballistic and in a flurry of movements GoldReaper, PJ, Sleek7, TheWorm, Gutschow and AlliQuick work up a punishing combo of resistance and speed movements that obliterate the stronghold of Team Aura.
I rip the hero-vision goggles off of my face, almost throwing them into the air as the crowd erupts in one harmonious celebration.
The athletes of Team Ballistic emerge from their Black Box haptic systems drenched in sweat, muscles still pumped as they scream a victory cry that gives me chills and reminds me of why I love this sport and why I always will. It seems impossible to believe the millions that used to cheer for athletes that simply kicked inflated balls through nets or hoops in sports of the past. This is how sports were meant to be and there is no going back.
As mentioned in part 1 of Visions of VR’s Future: 7 Reasons VR Will Change Sports Forever, this vision of the future of sports might seem a bit far fetched, but if you look at some emerging patterns, it is inevitable and will be a reality in the not too distant future. Some of the points discussed in part 1 include:
- eSports championships bringing in more viewers than the NBA finals in 2016
- The 2022 Asia Games will make competitive video games an official medal sport for the first time ever.
- HUGE investments in virtual reality technologies will usher in a new era of gaming. In 2016, over $2 billion dollars were invested in AR/VR technologies (see article here by Digi-Capital)
- The gaming industry as a whole also continues to grow with over $91 billion in revenue in 2016 and predicted to grow to $106.5 billion in 2017 according to a report by Newzoo.
- Virtual reality provides unlimited environmental possibilities, smarter training, and greater performance in training and competitions
With the stage set, here are the last 4 reasons I believe VR will changes sports forever:
4. Real world skills from a virtual experience
Increasing depth perception
Although the field is very early, scientists are using virtual reality to test depth perception and finding some interesting studies. In one study, researchers concluded that “Even in adulthood sensory systems are not fixed structures with immutable functions. … We have instead found strong sensory plasticity that can be evoked within minutes in adults.” This means that different manipulations of virtual reality scenarios might allow athletes to develop greater depth perception and thus athletic performance in virtual reality sports environments.
It will be interesting to see future studies that may prove virtual reality can not only change depth perception in the virtual environment but the real world as well.
The founders behind Seevividly.com are already using are using virtual reality to treat binocular vision problems for children and adults alike. One story mentioned on their site is “Betsy Yaros struggled with lazy eye her entire life. Now an art professor, her lazy eye gave her problems at work. That is, until she started using Vivid Vision with Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford of Bright Eyes Family Vision Care in Tampa, FL. After working with Dr. Bonilla-Warford using Vivid Vision in his eye clinic, Betsy was able to gain 3D vision for the first time in her life.” The future is bright for aspiring athletes that struggle with perception and vision problems.
Improving mind to muscle connection
With VR, developers and designers can completely fabricate environments and interactions that the user sees and if done correctly, can help reshape how users think about how hard they might be able to push in a workout and other motor skills. Check out one of the most impressive studies done so far that uses virtual reality technologies to reconnect the brain with nascent nerves to repair mobility for paraplegics. The article states:
“Linking brains to machines directly and providing feedback, we may have created a potential rehab therapy,” said Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, co-author of the study and the founder of the Center for Neuroengineering at Duke University and Duke School of Medicine professor in neuroscience.
Imagine not only using the technology for rehab but for increase muscular performance and strength for athletes.
VR increasing coordination and motor skills
In one study, researchers tested if learning how to juggle in VR could transfer over to being able to juggle in real life. The results concluded that VR does in fact help improve the acquisition of this skill.
“After ten days of training, participants who have alternated between real and virtual training demonstrated comparable performance to those who only practiced real juggling. Moreover, they adapted better to instructed changes in temporal-spatial constraints. These results imply that juggling relevant skill subcomponents can be trained in the virtual environment, and support the notion that cognitive aspects of a skill can be separately trained to enhance the acquisition of a complex perceptual-motor task.”
Given the right simulations and virtual reality sports experiences created, developers and designers may be able to help the athletes of the future perform better and learn skills more quickly.
5. Athlete personalities and sponsorships
Duality of avatar.
Unlike esports where users are simply good at game strategies and clicking the right buttons and actions, the vSport athlete will have real physical attributes like strength and agility AND skill abilities. Fans will have a new appreciation for the physical and mental strength of the player, as well as the in-game representation of these athletes via a powerful avatar.
With vSports, there will be a huge range of possibilities for sponsors to jump on board, support athletes and drive targeted marketing of their brands. Because of the duality of athlete / avatar mentioned earlier, athletes can represent brands in reality and virtual reality. In reality, athletes can sport swag and do real-world promotion for brands like supplements companies, health foods, gaming gear, clothing, etc. While the in-game experiences or championships can be strategically branded and personalized because the match is completely digital. Meaning, if I’m a male with an affinity for a specific sports drink, an in-game billboard could show that to me in a targeted and relevant way.
Although many cringe at marketing like this, it is these types of lucrative sponsorship opportunities that can attract some of the best future athletes to pursue becoming a vSports athlete, driving greater value and entertainment for viewers of the vSporting events.
6. Unlocked viewership possibilities
Crafting more exciting scenarios and entertaining performances
Rather than a simple grass field or hardwood floor, virtual reality sports will allow athletes to perform in any realm a game developer or designer can imagine. This increases spectator enjoyment via epic environments and also increases the potential impact and intensity of effects in the virtual reality sports event. This limitless potential is going to make vSports events 10x more exciting and visually appealing than traditional sports.
The “hero-vision” goggles I coined above are just my idea of some type of viewing device (VR enabled) that spectators will be able to use to experience the action of a virtual reality sport first hand and see through the literal eyes of their favorite athlete or even fly around a battle if they so desire. This level of agency and autonomy will allow every viewer to have the best seat possible. No more leaning to the left and right to see around that tall guy’s head in the seat in front of you.
7. The numbers don’t lie
Good job! You’ve finished part 1 and 2 of Visions of VR’s Future: 7 Reasons VR Will Change Sports Forever. So get involved in the rapidly emerging virtual reality sports space! Some companies are already experimenting with virtual reality sports that merge the real world athlete with a digital avatar where real physical performance determines in-game performance (VirZoom, Black Box). The rapidly growing numbers behind the adoption of gaming, esports and virtual reality are there and don’t appear to be slowing any time soon. I believe they will soon usher in a new era of sports and I can’t wait!