Sports Fans Are About To Get Their ‘Jet Packs’

Immersive technology on cusp of unlocking hyper-realistic viewing experiences
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The panelists, from left: Michael Davies, Fox Sports; William Deng, NFL; Danny Keens, NextVR; Sandra Lopez, Intel; and Geoff Reiss, Yahoo.

The panelists, from left: Michael Davies, Fox Sports; William Deng, NFL; Danny Keens, NextVR; Sandra Lopez, Intel; and Geoff Reiss, Yahoo.

Thanks to advances in technologies like virtual reality, the next few years will be a revolutionary time for sports fans, according to panelists at the Wednesday discussion “Immersive Media: How We Consume Sports” at the CES 2019 Sports Zone.

“This is the absolute most exciting time I’ve ever seen in this industry because of the kind of experiences that are just starting to get unlocked,” said Geoff Reiss, GM, Yahoo Sports/Verizon Media Group. “It’s the sports equivalent of getting those jet packs we’ve always wanted.”

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The panel, moderated by Michael Davies, senior VP, field and technical operations at Fox Sports, explored the ways in which technology will shape the act of watching sporting events. According to Danny Keens, content VP at NextVR, we’re on the cusp of a revolution thanks to advancements in camera technology, VR headset form factors and screen resolutions. “As you get more screen resolution, you get a better sense of presence and you can start to forget you’re sitting on the couch and start to think you’re sitting courtside at an NBA game,” he said.

See: 8K Is 'Getting Real'

Panelists highlighted some requirements for compelling immersive content — something that’s paramount for a medium like VR, which requires 100 percent of viewers’ attention. One will be customization and personalization, according to Sandra Lopez, VP Intel Sports and Media at Intel; another is the ability to translate the communal experience of sports into this new medium, something that is being pushed by platforms like Oculus Venues, a virtual arena where fans can watch and discuss events alongside others in avatar form.

The panel covered the role 5G will play in helping to get over technical hurdles of bandwidth and resolution, and William Deng, VP, media strategy and business development at the NFL noted other ways that fans can more deeply engage with traditional broadcast content — such as second-screen interactions like chat and “gamification.”

See: Qualcomm Deems 2019 'The Year Of 5G'

“Immersive media is going to become a new media format, and with that you have to think about telling stories differently,” Lopez said. “You’re really going to reimagine possibilities of storytelling.”

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