Anyone doubting that 2015 will be the year that VR comes to the masses need only listen to NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Speaking at a business conference in London, Silver confirmed that the NBA is planning to bring the courtside experience to fans around the world through the Oculus rift headset. Even local fans won’t have to shell out the big bucks for a courtside seat that would otherwise set you back a few thousand.
If you round it up statistically, 100% of our fans don’t go to games – they experience it through some form of media. So how can we replicate that courtside experience to fans at home? One way is through this Oculus virtual reality experience. I think that takes it to another level because you put on these large goggles – and I’m sure it won’t be long until they’re just normal-sized glasses – and then, in some ways, it may be better than the courtside experience because you’re not only courtside but you’re on the court, you’re above the court and you’re sitting on the basket
Meanwhile, Samsung made its own announcement about its partnership with the NBA just a few weeks ago at CES. Their Milk VR virtual reality video network will feature full 360 degrees video from the courtside through their Gear VR goggles. Fatscompany’s Jason Feifer got to try out the service and reports that:
Initially, it is totally disorienting. I’m clearly looking at a screen; the Note 4’s screen resolution, good as it is, can’t maintain crispness when it’s that close to my eyes… After a minute or so, I adjust and begin enjoying the action. Players dribble by me. I watch for a minute, turning my head back and forth. I look down and to the right, and stare at an ESPN cameraman crouched a few feet away.
While commissioner Silver specifically mentioned the Oculus Rift, the NBA is an initial partner in the Milk VR Network (Samsung partnered with Oculus to make the Gear VR). We’ll have to wait until these products are out in their commercial forms to see how they stack up. Currently, the panoramic video is being filmed through a box on the scorer’s table, and they are experimenting with ways to make the experience more dynamic by allowing the user to walk around the arena.
A common thread throughout stories being written about this new NBA initiative is the question of whether or not a VR headset could ever replace the live experience, particularly as it includes feeling the presence of tens of thousands of fans in an enclosed space. It seems that the general public might be about to understand what gamers have known for ages: the power of online multiplayer to bridge the space between users by forging a communal experience.
Are you excited to have the best seats in the house through a VR headset?