You may have heard the words virtual reality uttered more than most recently, but there’s a good reason for that. As multiple devices enter the consumer market, high-quality virtual reality is now an affordable prospect for most technology enthusiasts. There’s still a way to go before it reaches the mass market, but with gaming and computer application virtual reality devices like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR leading the charge, it’s only a matter of time.
There are also cheaper, smaller virtual reality form factors available. Samsung’s Gear VR is the most prominent, and also one of the most affordable. Powered by Oculus’ technology, the Gear VR’s goal is to be a portable and cost-effective way to enjoy the virtual reality space. What about the applications, though? Well, we’re coming to that. You may see the hint in the article title about what we’re going to talk about.
Welcome To The Future
The primary application of virtual reality devices like Gear VR will be entertainment. It may not have the hardware to run the more intensive virtual reality apps like the Vive or Oculus Rift, but the potential for live and recorded content via the Gear VR is enormous. This is where the NBA comes in. The NBA have been a surprising early adopter for virtual reality, offering the courtside game experience from the comfort of your own home. Why watch the game on television when you can experience it as if you were there?
That is the selling point of NBA’s drive to make their games VR compatible. Partnering with a company specializing in virtual reality broadcasting, NextVR, the NBA is currently streaming one game a week in virtual reality, with the intention of doing more. This is possibly the first real attempt at bringing virtual reality to the masses. While the applications on the Vive and Oculus Rift are ground-breaking and inventive, their purpose is still quite muddy and will not entice the mainstream user. The NBA’s initiative recognizes that recorded and live content in virtual reality is the gateway for these mainstream users to adopt virtual reality en masse, but there are still hurdles in the way.
When the cost of entry is a Gear VR, a Samsung phone, and an NBA League Pass, the cost can rack up more than many consumers would like. Ironically, the NBA League Pass could cost you more than the technology involved, depending on the cost of the phone. If you make this kind of investment for just a single virtual reality game per week, then understandable you could feel pretty ripped off.
Yet still, the allure of the “being there” experience is one that has gotten sports fan excited. We had a similar song and dance with 3D television, but the results weren’t up to the hype. With virtual reality, there’s no comparison. It is the real deal for sports fans looking to enhance their viewing experience, and it isn’t nearly as cost prohibitive as 3D was. The potential for the NBA and other sports leagues is enormous, but work still needs to be done both from a value for money perspective, but also on the technology involved.
Perfection Is Fleeting
While the Gear VR really is the most cost effective way to experience virtual reality at the moment, there are tradeoffs. The resolution of the image in virtual reality is incredibly important. For applications and games, the resolution can mean the difference between getting motion sick, or not. This isn’t quite the case with broadcasted content, but low resolution can still impact your experience. Users have complained of eye strain while watching games in virtual reality, and that following the game can be challenging because they can’t quite recognize players due to low resolution.
All technology has teething problems, however. Consumers may accept them for the moment, but the market must work rapidly to make virtual reality a mainstay in homes worldwide. The NBA, at least, is doing their part; and ultimately offer an experience worth trying.