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Tech: How Virtual and Augmented Realities Will Affect Sports

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By Jessica Oaks

You’ve probably already heard how virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are changing the way people view movies, do their jobs, and get a leg up on the beauty and fashion industries. However, they are now going a step further and changing the way individuals play and watch sports.

Just like its technology before, VR and AR are changing how you live your life and play your favorite sports.

Difference Between Virtual and Augmented Reality: VR replaces the real world with a computer-generated simulated one. The VR world is a 3D image or environment that you can interact with using special technology. You become part of this virtual world and can manipulate objects and perform actions.

AR, on the other hand, is a live direct or indirect view of a real-world environment whose features are augmented by computer-generated sensory input including GPS data, sound, graphics, or video. These technology functions enhance your current perception of reality.

Sports and Virtual Reality: VR has long had a place successfully in the gaming industry. Since the early 1990s, video game companies have tried (some unsuccessfully) to provide VR experiences to players. However, today you have devices such as the Samsung Gear VR, which is said to have one of the fastest mobile processors available in this type of technology.

It will not only influence the gaming industry but the sports arena as well.

VR technology is revolutionizing the way younger and older players train and practice. It is used as a training aid in golf, skiing, cycling, and more. It can be used to measure athletic performance and analyze technique. Athletes can also use this technology to fine tune aspects of their performance.

For instance, some college and NFL teams have incorporated VR reality into their quarterback training to help players improve on the football field. They’ve also incorporated systems that have 360-degree cameras and audio systems that capture all the on-field action. This allows the user to relive the play just like if they were actually there. It can be used to record one-on-one drills and team segments.

On the golf course, the PGA released VR videos captured during one of its tour. Some of the videos take you to a practice area where you’ll be part of one-on-one instruction with PGA TOUR players. They even have a VR video that takes you behind the scenes of one of its broadcasts.

How Augmented Reality Is Changing Sports: Augmented Reality allows fans to get closer to the action than they ever had before. It provides the ultimate setting and brings a whole new dimension to the spectator experience. It also has become common in sports telecasting.

Through tracked camera feeds, sports venues are provided with overlay and see-through augmentation for enhanced viewing by the audience. A good example of this would be the “yellow first down line” seen on TV during football games. This shows the line the offense must cross to receive a first down.

AR is also used by showing overlaying commercial advertisements on the view of the playing area. For instance, swimming telecasts often show a line across lanes indicating the position of the current record holder. This allows viewers to compare the current race to previous performances.

Another way AR is making its way into sports venues through Major League Baseball games. By downloading certain apps to your smartphone, AR is being allowed into your life by using GPS to gather information. Then, when you go to a baseball game, you can point your phone toward the field or a team bench and get player stats immediately.

AR has also been used in professional tennis tournaments. In 2009, at Wimbledon, a new app was created allowing attendees to get up close, personal, and the full tennis tournament experience. With this app, users receive superimposed information about different aspects of the Wimbledon. This includes match info, locator function, and even concession stand updates.

The Future of Augmented and Virtual Reality: It’s pretty safe to say that you’ve only seen the beginning of how virtual and augmented reality is affecting sports. Between new innovations and technology, both will intensify a person and player’s participation in various sports.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com