VR vs. Agitos & Agitation

Hello VR vs. readers, November is here and now that we’ve hit the 6th (at the time of writing) and the UK’s annual excuse to set things on fire and shoot off things that go boom is over and done with for another year, we’ve all got to realise time is running out on 2017. If you had planned anything to be done by the end of the year, it’s time to go up several gears.

For a number of industries that means crunch time and then some, if you want to ship your new product in time for the festive rush. You can’t sell a present if it’s not present – if you see what I mean. For us at VRFocus we’ve a number of things on our minds ourselves. Plans that need to be enacted, various irons in fires that we should probably check on, etc. All manner of bits and bobs really, and that’s not including the usual daily flood of news stories and features to keep you up to date and informed.

Personally, I’ve three things on my mind at the moment as we move into the final part of the year. The first is my houseguest I have with me for the next month, frankly I’ve forgotten what living with someone is like. Your schedule is no longer entirely your own for a start. Things need to be shared and time suddenly becomes a priority. Secondly, as you know, we (that is the VRFocus staff) aren’t all in the same place and speaking from personal experience it seems as soon as November came along the tens digit in the Celsius value decided to fly south for the winter. My poor little bedroom office is not exactly the best heated thing in the world and I’m now in multiple layers with the tendons in my fingers hurting from the sheer chill.

The third thing is the topic of today’s column, and something I referred to at the end of last week’s piece. Much as people don’t entirely know what augmented reality (AR) – or virtual reality (VR) too for that matter – is by definition, those that profess an interest sometimes aren’t particularly well informed about the reality of what it can or could do either.

One of my jobs at VRFocus is to keep a watching brief on everything being discussed to do with VR and AR on Twitter, and as such I’ve got a feed dedicated to each. A lot of the time it is not the happiest of tasks. But there are the odd golden nuggets of info that get dredged up in the search once you’ve sifted through all the bot posts and porn updates. No, I really did not want to know you could insert device A into socket B. Especially when socket B is in person Z. (Oh god, it’s a GIF, make it stop someone!)

It was through this that I came across a tweet last week that actually stopped me in my tracks for several minutes whilst I tried to get my head around what they were suggesting and all the things intrinsically wrong with it. It was, quite simply, the stupidest thing I’d read on Twitter that week. And considering the ground that usually covers, boy, that’s quite something.

The tweet came from one Patrick Nally, described on Wikipedia as “British entrepreneur and specialist consultant, widely acknowledged as the ‘founding father’ of modern sports marketing”, who has previously been involved in the International Olympic Committee and FIFA. He has some opinions on how ‘new media’ will transform things and has talked before about how it can, and will, change the way people will watch sporting events. Or “how the end user consumes the product” as a marketer would probably say.

Mr. Nally was responding to another tweet, one from Nick Butler of insidethegames.biz, about the lack of ticket sales for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games which is being held in PyeongChang in South Korea, 30 years on from South Korea’s last Olympics, the Summer Games held in Seoul. Only 0.2% of tickets have been sold for the Paralympics portion of preoceedings, according to the report, and it may not have Russian participation either.

“Could it be cancelled for lack of interest, and save money?” Mr. Nally mused. “Create through augmented reality an eSports equivalent and get a bigger audience.”

First of all… what? Second of all….what? And I’m quite prepared to have “what” be third through fifth or sixth of all as well. I honestly could not believe what I was reading at the time, and I’ve had to read it again a few times here before writing about it just to make absolutely sure I’m not getting the wrong end of the stick. We should apparently cancel the Paralympics to make way for an AR based eSports games. Because money.

Just what is this man blathering about? Firstly, no you don’t cancel the Paralympics just because it isn’t maximising the monetisation. What in the blue hell kind of suggestion is that? Secondly, you do not replace it with something in eSports – how is that replacing it at all? (If you are even open to replacing it with something equivalent for those with disabilities.) Make something new for eSports if you like, but I’d imagine even eSports most diligent supporters would say it wasn’t ready for something at the level of the Olympics. Then we get to AR and oh boy where do we start?

Well, unfortunately as great as AR and VR are they still require the ability to see.  We’ve discussed this before but you want to replace something that celebrates disability that would be discriminatory against those with a disability relating to their eyesight? The Paralympics is a global event, when they talk about the Olympics they talk about “the Olympic family” because it’s all nations together. eSports is not anywhere near that level yet, but neither is AR – the AR platform is still being developed. Especially as a broadcast platform. Google may have showcased some of the capabilities of ARCore by showing off League of Legends but that does not equate to something that will be carriable in all markets. It’s just not ready. Especially not for what Mr. Nally thinks it can do.

Both AR and VR will have their roles in major sports events going forward, don’t you worry about that, but it will be as a platform and not the platform. In fact, immersive technology is already part of the Olympics, with mixed reality (MR) being used at the PyeongChang event! But it cannot do everything and to be perfectly frank nor should it. VR and AR are not a technological catch-all solution, nor are they something you can throw out to make yourself look like you’re being cutting edge. (FYI nor is the word ‘blockchain’ for that matter.) Something AR cannot replace the Paralympics. You cannot replace the Paralympics with an AR anything; just like you cannot replace it with a VR anything. Moreover, you shouldn’t even be considering the idea of replacing the Paralympic Games with anything in the first place because what the heck is wrong with you if you are!?

Mr. Nally, you may know sports marketing but you do not know technology – or apparently what the spirit of the Olympics is, which alone is disconcerting considering your involvement in it.  It’s not uncommon for us to look at the developing world of immersive technology going on around us and think, well let’s have a degree of common sense about this.

This is the first time I’ve had to couple that notion with ‘come on, have a heart’.