Can VR & AR Help Sport Teams & Consumers Reach their Goals?

It's not hard to imagine how VR and AR could enhance the experience of people watching sports from their living room couches or even from within the stadium itself. Put a headset on and be transported to the field and feel like you're right in the middle of the action. With AR, it could be more of a social experience - a group of friends using their phones to add layers to their experience. Right now, as with any VR and AR discussion, the headsets and the content are not yet at the top of their game. We all know that practice makes perfect and that sport is definitely one of the sectors in which money can be made, meaning it could be one of the first, alongside other entertainment, to really take off in the consumer market for VR and AR. Some say that sport will be the driving force in getting everyday people interested in immersive experiences, especially when they are social ones.

Back in 2015 (and many years before, after  and to come), thanks partially to a Time Magazine cover and story, there were predictions and proclamations that VR could really become a major consumer product. Best of all, there were a lot of memes going around of the boy on the cover in every sport and entertainment pose (and more...).

And this funny one from this article.

Sport teams and organizations and news and entertainment platforms are clearly taking VR and AR more seriously these days. Charlie Fink, a Forbes writer focused on VR and AR trends and tech who you can follow via various forms of Fink Metaverse, sees investments in sport tech going up and sport as a market leader in the field. In a recent article in The Independent, Fink said that AR, for example, will make sport matches come to life on tables at pubs, allowing "spectators" to gather around with their friends, pulling up players and their stats.

PCR, which covers the Computing sector and  published an AR/VR special in early March, writes that watching sports from the comfort of your home yet with the feel of a stadium will become more common as the quality continues to improve. PCR says that NextVR is one of the companies that's working hard on transporting fans to arenas via quality headsets and experiences.

In the below video, you can get an idea of what content NextVR offers.

Or - have a look at this guy's visual description and review, in which you can also see eveything you will need to actually watch NextVR sports in an immersive way. I just wonder if NextVR paid this guy to make his video as at one point he says, "Who needs to pay 2 grand to sit court side." You can hear how happy he is as he says it so either he truly loves it or he's earning 2 grand for doing the video :-).

For transparency purposes, I should let you know that I am earning nothing for this article (other than a master degree, maybe) and that I tried out NextVR for several hours this week. Though after 5 minutes the foam on the mixed reality headset had me sweating as if I were actually doing heavy sports, I have to admit that I was truly drawn in to the semi-immersive experience of watching everything from soccer to football to big-wheeled trucks in mud to entertaining wrestling - from the corner of the boxing ring. Tennis, I'm sorry to say, put me straight to sleep. I know very little about sports but could still really get into almost everything I was watching. It felt different from watching sports on TV. The ever-so-slight immersion thanks to 360° cameras and / or stereoscopic ones gave the experience more depth. I felt much closer to the players and to the spectators. I enjoyed having a bird's eye view of hard-working, impressive muscles and amazingly weird bodies. I loved seeing the face of the person who scored close up right after it happened. It also felt very flat at times, but the "experience" was enough to make me want more.

It needs to be said, time and time again, that 360° is not VR and VR is not 360°. With that said, they get mixed together so frequently that it's hard to differentiate them. The most basic explanation is that 360° allows for pretty passive experiences whereas VR should permit more interactive ones, such as teleportation, etc... VR experiences, for the moment, are more game-like in terms of look and feel. 360° experiences are based on video being filmed with a 360° camera. There are also stereoscopic experiences that can be mistaken for VR or 360°. Again - basically - those are filmed with two cameras and create a feeling of depth - like a more 3D environment. VR uses some of the same cameras and angles but there is far more programming and design involved, which is also why it's more expensive. To sum it up, a lot of content that's called VR is in fact just 360° or made with 2 cameras (or more). Once you try real VR, with hand controls and haptics, you start to understand the difference and the limits of 360° videos.

Below are a few of the best 360° degree sport videos I tried this week. These ones I watched with various high-tech and high-quality regular and mobile headsets - simply because they make the experience have more depth and therefore immersion thanks to the lenses and the integrated sound. Honestly, with sport, and probably most immersive experiences, the sound quality makes all the difference. When the sound was good, I was fully engaged, even just with regular earbuds. Good sound could really give you "the-crowd-went-wild" feeling. Sometimes I even felt euphoric. At other times, like with downhill skating, I felt excited, scared and a little dizzy. Put a headset on (cardboard with earbuds will be fine but not fabulous) and take a fast ride down a steep hill (with no breaks)!

This NFL one can't be embedded here, but if you can, have a look at it in a headset with headphones. It's a long one but it had my attention to the very end, and I'm not even really interested in football! The storytelling and visuals are good and the quality is great. Towards the end, the team is in a room together analyzing their plays that week. I seriously felt, at that point, that I was right there in the room with them. It was unreal. Or was it too real? Hard to say.

There are so many great ones, but have a look at this surfing one if you've ever wanted to ride the waves. I felt thankful that these 2 surfer dudes were kind enough to take me along with them. I'm pretty sure I'll never go surfing, so for me, this immersive stuff is a great and fun - and a safe and shark-less alternative!

VR Focus, a site all about VR, AR and MR, has a weekly overview of sport news related to tech. This week's highlights include a baseball team that wants to give its fans the opportunity to know what it feels like to be on the field up at bat - via VR. They are also looking into developing an AR game that allows kids to find player cards throughout the stadium. In other news, Fox Sports is going to use AR to enhance their live studio coverage by superimposing computer-generated images within the broadcast. You can imagine sport players and stats popping up larger than life in the studio next to excited sportscasters. VR Focus concludes this week with news that the American Football arcade experience that puts you in the shoes of a quarterback will be coming soon to PlayStation VR.

Speaking of getting inside the shoes of athletes, VR is also being used for practice and training by sport teams. A recent report about an NBA basketball player who had a serious injury indicates that his team is hoping practicing his shots in a VR environment will help him get his shot back to what it was. According to the February article in the Philly Voice, the Philadelphia 76ers is one of a small group of  NBA teams that wants to use VR not only for training but also to help get a player's confidence level back up and minimize the stress of having all eyes on the player as he practices. VR can create a more private practice environment and help a team member to visualize his plays with less pressure and fear of failure. That is the hope, anyway, according to the sources in the article.

The 2018 Winter Olympics also featured some VR sport stories. Not only was some of it shown in VR thanks to a collaboration between the NBC network and Intel, but VR was also used by the US ski team to visualize the ski course before actually ever skiing on it. Working with the company STRIVR and 360° degree cameras, one of the coaches had access to the slopes and could film the course numerous times. The footage was then made into a sort of training / simulation VR expereince. According to this Washington Post article, the skiers could use the technology to memorize the route and better ready themselves for the competition.

For more information, check out this news report.

Here's another training-with-VR success story via ESPN. It's about "how more than 2,500 virtual reality reps helped transform" NFL football player Case Keenum's game. The company STRIVR also worked with Keenum on his training and had this to say about it, which gives you yet another glance at the potential of training in VR:

"And that also begs the question…who is the next Case Keenum? Who is taking their game to the next level with 2,647 extra moments of practice? Another athlete? A front-line worker at a large QSR chain? A doctor, nurse, or surgeon? The big exec needing to give a keynote address? The operations lead in a manufacturing facility? Answer: all of them."

Last but not least, here's a look at an upcoming VR game from Black Box VR that hopes to help you forget that you are lifting real weights. It sounds dangerous to me but perhaps less so for athletes and fitness folks who know what they are doing. In August, the same company plans to open up a full VR Gym in San Francisco. Have a look at the video to find out more.

If that video didn't convince you, perhaps this one will (or really won't)!

All this sport talk is exhausting me! There's a lot more to be said on VR/AR/MR in sport - so if you're in the sport field or just interested in being transported to a sport field to watch a match - make sure to keep your eye on the ball for all the new and upcoming trends!

by Sarah Markewich – SIVAR project intern spring 2018


Real Life Uses of Virtual & Augmented Reality - Coming Soon to a Shop, House, Company, Comic Book & Music Video Near You!

If you do a search on AR and VR "news" each week, you'll see a whole lot of information about the latest uses and developments in the field, which seem to be increasing daily. Skeptics might say that VR is dying (other than in the gaming business) and AR is the only one of the two that really matters anymore. The verdict is not out on that yet. Searches reveal a lot of sectors launching new ways to use VR to save and earn money. As usual, the best advice is to keep your eyes open and on the current VR and AR trends to stay sharp in your field.

Let's have a look at a few of the "news" items the popped off the page in today's search.

Perhaps inspired by Ikea's pioneering use of VR, now Macy's retail and department store is launching a VR experience to help customers walk through their possible, future living rooms to see how the space feels and if the products are right for them. Using a tablet, Macy's clients can design the perfect furniture set-up for their dream home and then immerse themselves in it in one of the 60 Macy's locations to set up this VR furniture pilot. Macy's says that the VR service will drive sales by increasing the customer experience by helping them to choose new furniture in way that is closer to home. It also means more space for Macy's as they see it as a way to show furniture that isn't necessarily present in the shop but can be ordered directly from the warehouse the moment the customer is ready to purchase. You can check out a video of Macy's new VR offer here.

Is it time for your furniture business to look into providing your clients with a VR simulation of their future dream rooms and homes?

What do you think of the Ikea kitchen simulation? Have a look below!

Now that we've talked shop, lets get back to the work floor and have a look at what the major, US conglomerate Honeywell has in mind for VR and AR. As a manufacturer of just about everything, so it seems, Honeywell, like so many companies, is faced with transferring the jobs of an older generation of retirees to a younger one of millennials.  If we are to believe the trend reports, the millennial generation stays in most job positions for no more than 2 years, which can be a nightmare in terms of positions that sometimes require up to 6 months of training. VR and AR training could help solve this issue, which so many businesses face.

Have a look at this recent Forbes article to learn more about what Honeywell has planned.

According to the article, it's also important to keep in mind that younger generations are not fans of passive training. Another Forbes article goes on to say that millennials will not join or stay long at companies that are behind on technology. Studies show that the younger workforce expects to use seamless tech in their daily jobs and would not only look for using VR and AR for training but also for entertainment breaks on the job. While working, it could also be an advantage to set the atmosphere as desired with the sounds and virtual spaces that make them feel more productive. Virtual meeting spaces and the flexibility to work from anywhere and still easily attend meetings will also be a requirement for many future workers.

Take 6 minutes to watch this interview about VR and AR training at Honeywell if you want to know more about their approach.

We've all heard about VR films and we saw when part of the world was taken over by Pokemon Go! Yet, it still came as a surprise to see this exciting news about Will.i.am of the band the Black Eyed Peas talking about his latest dive into the AR world via a graphic comic that comes to life and into VR through music videos, or "projects" as he calls them.

If you like graphic novels, comics, music and want to see some of the potential of augmented reality to literally (or is it figuratively or virtually or "augmentedly", in this case?) make things jump off the page, make sure to watch the Masters of the Sun video below. It's surprising and impressive. Just by seeing the technology in the video, you can already imagine how many ways it could be used for and way beyond entertainment.

In this recent NME article, Will.i.am is quoted saying the following:

If he's right and a shift is indeed happening, a change, then it's probably time for us all to start getting more familiar with VR and AR and to say "fuck yeah" to it as well.

As far as my VR research goes, it actually all started to take shape in my mind while watching this random Bjork VR video that a friend showed me while I was using her mobile VR headset. It made a huge impact on me that I couldn't shake as I love music and had never experienced it in such a way, with so many senses, as I did in that moment. I felt the potential of VR then and have said fuck yeah to it ever since. You definitely have to try it to believe it! My suggestion is to try VR and AR any chance you can to get used to the idea of them as there is no escaping some form of them in the future, whether while choosing furniture, training for jobs,  via experiencing music, comics entertainment and more!

Get your VR headset on and jump in the video below with Bjork!

Immerse yourself in more VR and AR news here next week.

by Sarah Markewich – SIVAR project intern spring 2018


Are VR & AR Tools Under your Company's Radar?

There is always a lot of discussion of when and how AR and VR will finally take off. Some say it is in the process already and others predict 20 years from now. These conversations always come back to headsets, cables and content, among other things that get in the way of a seamless user experience. One thing for sure is that businesses should pay attention to VR and AR trends.

Through my current internship at Howest DAE for the SIVAR project and my VUB master thesis focus on VR in the journalism field, I have been trying out different headsets, content and immersive experiences, and watching and reading about other users’ experiences as well.

When I recently saw mention of the new Asus Windows VR Headset with a flip-up visor, I got excited because it seems like a good direction to head in to allow users to jump back and forth between being present and immersed. One of the aspects I both love and hate about some of the headsets I have used so far is that you can totally lose track of where you are and not even realize there are people in the room right next to you. That might be fun for gaming or truly immersive experiences but it seems and feels unsafe and uncomfortable for a work environment, especially one that involves training.

Speaking of training, it appears to be the part of AR and VR that are already starting to take off. Consumers are more aware of VR thanks to the gaming market but only really know AR via things like Pokemon Go. For CIOs and CTOs, according to a recent article in TechRepublic, awareness of VR and AR as training tools is essential. In that article, J.P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, says that businesses have to keep VR and AR tools under their radar, especially when it comes to training. In the same article, Tuong Nguyen, principal research analyst at Gartner, says that it is essential to consider which problems VR and AR tools can help solve rather than just to start guessing and trying.

Nguyen also says that task itemization, design and collaboration and video guidance are the top three uses for such technology for enterprises right now. High-risk training situations take precedence as well. In the TechRepublic article, he points out that investing in technology has to make or save a company money to make sense. CIOs, he says, should be expecting cost savings through augmented and virtual training that leads to fewer accidents and mistakes and better accuracy.

In a recent White Paper I wrote about how journalists should approach virtual reality, my conclusion was that the absolute least they should do is to keep a good eye on it and what their colleagues and competitors are doing with it – that the days of simply ignoring it are over. That seems to ring true for many fields. If you want to stay on the cutting edge and remain competitive, as Gownder said, you need to keep AR and VR tools under your radar.

And if you are a headset developer, please keep working out how to go wireless and use flip-up visors or something, anything, that makes the real world and the virtual and augmented ones easier to enter and leave, especially when it comes to training situations on the work floor.

Check out this video discussing the state of  AR and VR in both consumer and business technology.

For more information about the flip-up Asus and how TechRepublic sees it, look here: https://www.techrepublic.com/article/asus-takes-ar-to-the-enterprise-with-flip-up-windows-mixed-reality-headset/

For more insights into the use of VR and AR for training, read this: https://www.techrepublic.com/article/are-ar-and-vr-training-technologies-ready-for-the-enterprise

by Sarah Markewich - SIVAR project intern spring 2018


SuperChem VR, een virtueel chemie labo voor studenten

De ontwikkelaar Schell Games creëerde een nieuwe virtual reality applicatie waarmee spelers op een educatieve en veilige manier kunnen leren werken in een chemie labo.
De applicatie heeft een sterke focus op training en zorgt ervoor dat spelers alle handelingen en metingen correct leren uitvoeren.