el Clásico Miami in VR
For the past month, I had been patiently awaiting a soccer match in Miami to be played between Barcelona and Real Madrid (el Clásico Miami), not because I’m a passionate international futbol fan (which I am not), but because the match was scheduled to be broadcasted for free in virtual reality (VR). The NBA reported several gains in VR game viewing last season so this match was my first opportunity to tune in, explore, and experience a big match in VR. On July 29th, my two sons and I tuned in through a Google Daydream, a Google Pixel, and the NextVR mobile app. Here’s a review of our experience.
- Corner kicks were amazing — “Sick” was actually the word used by my sons. Since the cameras were right next to the posts, we were able to easily look towards the corner and follow the ball into the box. It felt like we were among the players and goalkeeper in the middle of the action. Those points of view in VR for corner kicks were truly fascinating.
- Throw-ins were a mixed bag — When a throw-in occurred near a camera, it was an amazing experience. We were right next to the player throwing in the ball and also felt extremely close to the receiving and defending players. On the flip side, when throw-ins took place on the opposite side of the field, the play was too far away to follow.
- Player substitutions felt real — Players exiting and entering the match were a few feet in front of us. We could turn our heads to watch them walk right by us.
- Looking up for virtual TV broadcast was critical with a few glitches — Whenever the action traveled too far away from our position, we could look up and watch the TV broadcast on a virtual 2D screen. This allowed us to switch between the VR and traditional broadcasts without having to take off our VR headset. Although, the TV broadcast did disappear a few times during the experience. Not sure if that was by design or a software/broadcast glitch.
- Looking down for match score was convenient — At any time during the game we could look down to see the score of the match. This was convenient because we couldn’t always find a stadium scoreboard while in VR.
- Stadium “fan wave” was fun — At least one VR camera was located in the seats surrounded by the fans. When the classic fan wave began, we were able to follow it around the stadium, experience fans standing up all around us, and then watch it move away from us in the opposite direction. It was quite the unique fan experience.
- Joining a VR experience for the first time took too many steps and too much time — Unfortunately, we missed the first half of the game and the halftime show because we were setting up the headset, the phone, the remote, and the apps. Watching the match in VR was not an out of the box plug and play experience. We highly recommend that you use your equipment well in advance to gain some familiarity with the process before joining a live event.
- Our experience was cut short by an overheated smartphone — After about 45 minutes of viewing the match in VR, our Pixel overheated. We received a pop-up message to take our phone out of the headset to cool down.
Watching el Clásico in VR with my sons was a first-time experience that we will never forget. Over the next 12 months, the capabilities of VR technology will continue to advance, the cost will drop, and producers will offer an increasing number of live events. Earlier this summer, MLB At Bat VR made its debut and every other league is currently exploring VR in some capacity. All critical components of VR are converting rapidly towards a tipping point for the mass majority market.
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