Since the widespread adoption of on-demand streaming video, the consumption of media has become increasingly individualistic. Consumers now have an abundance of choice that was once limited to a handful of popular television shows that viewers would discuss with their peers. This social aspect of media consumption has been decreasing in recent years, but virtual reality (VR) technology has the ability to act as the modern-day equivalent of the “campfire television” phenomenon through its immersive experiences.
Live events create a high level of social involvement, with viewers regularly gathering to either attend them in-person or watch them on TV. With VR’s immersive nature, live events can be experienced first-hand without the boundaries of physical location. Following are live trends that are driving social VR and allowing people from all over the world to connect over their shared interests.
Sports teams and leagues across the world have already tried their hand at broadcasting games in VR. From the UK’s Premier League to the NHL and UFC, VR offers a solution for sports fans who want to root for their teams and favorite athletes directly from the sidelines, no matter where they are located. Earlier this month, the NBA announced that it will be partnering with NextVR for the second year in a row to livestream 27 games this season in virtual reality, six more than the year prior. This initiative has even garnered support from major names, including Carmelo Anthony of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Anthony’s recent departure from the New York Knicks is at the center of the NBA’s VR expansion this season, as his return to Madison Square Garden for a game against his former team will be among the games streamed in VR.
Even the NFL, which has been notably absent from the move to VR, has been toying with the idea of streaming a future Super Bowl game. However, this effort may take longer than that of other major sports leagues, due to the abundance of cameras already placed on football fields, leaving little room for additional 360-degree cameras. Despite the challenges, the NFL has already begun shooting highlights for VR viewers and is showing progress in its move to VR.
Concerts and Live Music
VR’s ability to transport users to virtually any location gives the technology a natural home in live music, and it’s potential in the space is massive. According to a recent report from Aloompa, over half of Americans attended a music festival in the last year and live music is anticipated to be a $10 billion industry by 2018. However, despite its explosive growth, live music’s physical limitations leave much to be desired by music lovers, which is where VR comes in.
It’s no coincidence that the tickets for Coachella 2016 came with a custom Google Cardboard VR headset. VR’s capabilities and live music’s need for an immersive experience go hand-in-hand, and festivals are well aware. Additionally, EDM, a relatively new genre of music with performances that rely heavily on stimulating lighting and imagery, is commonplace in many music festivals and offers another logical avenue in which VR thrives. This year’s CES featured a 360-degree immersive experience of EDC Las Vegas which was achieved in collaboration with VRLIVE, further proving the connection between VR and live music.
In the short amount of time that VR has been available to the general public, its variety of applications has already expanded beyond the purpose for which the technology was created: gaming. While stigmas around gaming make it seem counterintuitive to describe the pastime as a social activity, VR allows for the closest thing possible to an in-person interaction. This will enable gamers from the worldwide community to connect by having real-time conversations while playing realistically.
This increased sociability facilitated by VR fits perfectly with esports, which encourages the gaming community to come together in the same way that occurs in traditional sports. Just this summer, the first national VR esports championship for the game The Unspoken took place and while VR esports still needs time to go to catch up with the popularity of traditional esports, the outlook is promising.
Live events promote social interaction by their very nature. Coupled with the growth of VR technology, the physical limitations of live events could be erased entirely, connecting people from every corner of the world.