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How are AR and VR offering new opportunities in the sports and entertainment industries?

As fans marvelled at the Elder Drake’s virtual dragon swooping over the Beijing National Stadium during the League of Legends World Final in October 2017, it signified the arrival for the next generation of enhanced entertainment for the video games industry. With an estimated value to this market of $138.4 billion dollars (Statista 2020) Augmented Reality (AR) - as well as Virtual Reality (VR) - are at the forefront of the battle for viewership and are being integrated in to both live events and consumer homes.

Several hardware manufacturers are vying for market share in the VR headset industry including Oculus, Samsung, HTC VIVE and Sony PlayStation. Games developers are producing VR-enabled gameplay for a more immersive sensory experience. AR is now part of everyday life across technology, entertainment and traditional sport broadcasting with BT Sport and BBC’s iconic Match of the Day using AR to show post game stats on a Saturday evening.

Technological advances soon permeate down to everyday life. This is encapsulated by Google’s ARCore software, an open source SDK (software development kit) allowing developers to ‘unearth possibilities that were previously restricted to our imaginations’. Apple’s ARKit AR tech is the framework that led to the site of Pokémon fans trying to ‘catch ‘em all’ via their smart phones in 2017.

Google and Apple are both battling for market share in the wearable AR sector, with Apple’s Glass AR expected to be available from 2022. Google’s Glass 2D headset, whilst not being as technologically advanced, offers integrated functionality.

How will 5G affect esports tournaments and events ?

5G connectivity offers speeds of up to 10Gbps and the opportunity for mobile AR-enabled entertainment is unparalleled. In 2019, this was showcased at the AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys - the most valuable sports team in the world.

Turning the stadium into an ‘enhanced location,’ 80,000 fans used their phone screens to see in-game live player stats shown as AR technology. As the game progressed, stats were tracked with data reflecting live plays. The fan engagement was ground-breaking and truly immersive. With most ‘traditional’ and ‘non-traditional’ (including esports) sporting entertainment comes the reality that online or linear broadcast viewership is exponentially higher than those fans watching in person.

Should you attend an event in person, and benefit from the unique atmosphere? Or is it easier to watch from the comfort of your home in 4K clarity? This is a delicate balance: empty seats can detract from the spectacle for those watching at home.

Image courtesy of NEXUS STUDIOS

However, as the League of Legends World’s Final in 2017 demonstrated, those in the stadium can not only see AR content on a grand scale at the venue, but they can also be a part of it – in this case, they experienced the virtual dragons pass overhead. Similarly, Season 18 of American Idol concluded with Katy Perry stunning viewers with a jaw dropping ‘remote’ performance with mixed reality (AR and VR) visuals.

In the era of Covid-19 and social isolation requirements, the opportunity to shoot content in a studio with a green screen prior to the live broadcast may be attractive to producers. In addition, the content can be recorded in one location but then controlled from another halfway round the globe.

Katy Perry’s performance attracted international acclaim, as well as 2.2 million views (and counting) on YouTube - a fitting finale to the reality TV show’s most recent season. It was also a great promotional opportunity for the hit singer to showcase her new single, ‘Daisies’ – a win-win scenario all round.

What do you think?

Will AR and VR opportunities at events encourage you to purchase a ticket to the real thing? Or are you happy to sit back and watch from a remote location, even if it’s your living room? Let us know!


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