There are hundreds of millions, if not billions, of passionate sports fans around the world. And yet, according to Intel, no more than 1% of those people will ever get to see their favorite team in person.
That massive experience gap is at the center of Intel’s ambitious live-sports virtual reality efforts, a series of initiatives that over the next couple of years should solidify the company’s “as if you’re there” philosophy about sports, said Jeff Hopper, the business strategy lead at Intel Sports Group.
In the short term, those efforts will focus on single-user, individual experiences. But over time, Intel plans on making it possible for fans to be right in the middle of their favorite team’s action, create personalized 3D highlights, and share them with friends.
This week, Intel and Major League Baseball announced a three-year partnership to live-stream one baseball game a week in VR. That followed a similar pact between the NBA and Next VR that kicked off at the beginning of the 2016-2017 basketball season.
Fans watching the games—via Intel’s True VR app on Samsung’s Gear VR headset—will be able to choose from multiple camera angles around a stadium, each of which will give them a wide, immersive view of the action.
While analysts have predicted that virtual reality will be a $38 billion industry by 2026, it’s not yet a mainstream technology. Companies like Samsung have sold millions of VR headsets, but data suggests few people are using them regularly. And that’s why Gersh said he’s not certain that VR will succeed as a mainstream technology. Still, Major League Baseball wants to be part of shaping what VR could become
“We’re excited to work with somebody like Intel, a leader in the sports technology space,” Kenny Gersh, executive vice president of business at Major League Baseball Advanced Media, told Fast Company, “to define the VR experience for baseball [and] present the game in a different way to our fans.”