Virtual Reality (VR) is fast becoming an extremely lucrative industry, with Statista placing its current market value at $6.4 billion. That figure is forecasted to double by next year and go over $40 billion by 2020. One market that VR has seemingly cornered is the sports industry, with sports teams—particularly at the pro level—investing millions in VR sports technology mainly to improve and diversify the training methods of athletes. Such innovation is also being used in other areas, notably in sports coverage and fan engagement. Here are five sports that are benefiting from VR!
Virtual reality has become immensely popular in American football, with notable NFL teams and college programs incorporating the technology into their practices, according to a feature Jane Zorowitz wrote for NBC Sports.
At least three NFL teams (the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, and San Francisco 49ers) and the same number of college programs (Auburn University, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Arkansas) are currently using VR technology. One of its many benefits is that it allows players to practice without stepping on an actual football field. This benefit is particularly magnified in the college ranks, which caps the players’ practice and film study hours. With VR, film study sessions can simulate actual game conditions, making such sessions even more effective.
Virtual reality is also useful for NASCAR racers, who can strap on a VR headset and step into the world of Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Bill Elliot. In the same NBC Sports feature, Horowitz notes that advancements in VR have more or less made actual and simulated realities virtually indistinguishable. By blurring the lines that separate the real from the virtual, VR has now become “the ideal means of supplementing work on the field, on the rink, on the court, to further athletes’ skills and knowledge of the game.”
Even soccer teams in the MLS and in leagues around the world are turning to VR to bolster their training methods. Aside from that, the soccer viewing experience is also starting to get a big boost from VR, with Dejan Gajsek writing that a Slovenian news company had covered an important soccer match between local teams FC Maribor and HSK Zrinjski Mostar. The experience allowed fans to view the match from positions that were usually inaccessible, such as behind the scenes footage of teams preparing.
Virtual reality has also become important in basketball, and the NBA is leading the way in using VR to improve the game. The technology is, of course, being used to enhance training, as in the case of the NFL. But more than that, the sport is using VR technology in a variety of other ways. In fact, NBA executives told Sports Illustrated that they expect VR to “play a major role in growing the league’s global audience by enhancing its broadcasts, providing new fan experiences, and possibly even improving its officiating.”
Online poker players can now play their favorite poker games on VR via Casino VR Poker. It is described by 20Next as a “VR poker game that provides players a unique experience where they can play multiplayer poker in virtual reality through their VR headset.” It is currently the only VR poker game available and has already held several professional poker tournaments and cash games.
Virtual reality is fast becoming not only a profitable industry but also a game-changer in various fields, including sports. In a few years, it would not be much of a surprise if VR becomes totally ubiquitous—an integral part of the day-to-day life of people all around the world.