How would it feel to be at an arena with thousands of other people, from the comfort of your own home?
By Mo Hussain, Contributor
The metaverse isn’t the first platform that’s intended to broadcast immersive live sports through VR.
When Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the metaverse was announced, it showed how it can impact a lot of different areas of everyday life. The metaverse will change work meetings, video games, digital tourism, and more. An underlooked aspect is the impact the metaverse will have on how live sports are consumed. What if someone wanted to feel present at a Vancouver Canucks game, but lived in Spain? It’s one thing to watch a game on a television screen, but drastically different to be immersed with the actual environment of what it would be like to attend a game.
The NBA is the most recent sports organization intending to broadcast its games through the metaverse. On November 9th, Oculus (owned by Meta) announced that basketball fans can tune into NBA games through the “Horizon Venues” app starting November 14th. Horizon Venues is essentially a virtual platform where users can watch live events together. As of right now, there isn’t any recorded footage for the general public of what watching NBA games in Horizon Venues is actually like.
However, the metaverse isn’t the first platform that’s intended to broadcast immersive live sports through VR.
NextVR was a company that offered that exact experience, before being acquired by Apple in 2020. The company had partnerships with the NBA, WWE, various Boxing promotors, and ICC Soccer to offer an immersive broadcast experience for their viewers with VR headsets.
Three years ago the company released a youtube video showing what it would be like to watch an NBA game courtside through virtual reality. The experience looked quite engaging. Users could watch games with a courtside angle while sitting next to their friend’s digital avatar. However since NextVR was acquired by Apple, there haven’t been any updates on where the company is headed moving forward.
Although NextVR seems to be the company closest to having offered that kind of experience at scale, they aren’t the only ones in the market. The NFL has experimented with broadcasting their games in virtual reality through its own “NFL Immersive VR” platform. The NFL also previously released numerous VR compatible highlights of games a couple of years back.
Fox Sports also has an application on Oculus named “FOX Sports VR,” which allows users to watch Fox’s broadcasted games in VR. A unique feature is that users can watch games in a virtual lounge. Similar to NextVR, FOX Sports VR seems to also offer users the choice of switching to different angles of the game while watching. That application was powered by VR company “LiveLike” who also focus on the intersection between broadcasting sports games and virtual reality.
The metaverse will take years for it to truly develop but do not be surprised if digital live event attendance skyrockets in the next couple of years. VR technology is growing at an unprecedented rate.