VR vs. It’s Coming Home

The World Cup is over, five weeks of intense football which descended on Russia and allowed many of us to have a brief respite from the craziness that seems to have engulfed the world in the last few years. Somewhat depressingly it won’t even be another four years before the next competition, instead it will be four and a half as everyone awaits winter in Qatar so that people have a vague hope in hell of actually being able to play there.

Four and a half years. In that time we’ll have a European football competition, not to mention another Olympics. I can’t help but wonder as to what will change in that time. If we look back to the last World Cup in 2014, which took place in Brazil, it’s astounding how far technology has come along in as small a time as this. From a virtual reality (VR) point of view it’s been a heck of a big leap, although many of you likely won’t think that. Yes, there’s still a long way to go, but there’s wireless VR now. Stuff that makes the DK1 look positively archaic. VR hasn’t taken over the world, but it has permeated nearly every facet of what makes the world tick.

History, design and enterprise, retail and finance, science, medicine, history and archaeology, agriculture, engineering, videogames, board games, television and film and… sport.

So, going back to that topic, how many of you watched the World Cup – let’s say more than once? I’d imagine quite a few of you. To be honest I was less enthused about this competition than I have for any previously. I pretty much left England alone during the first few rounds, I checked in on the quarter-final at the exact moment the opposition scored. Which should’ve been warning enough. Still I was disappointed when England went out as you may have noticed if you follow us on Twitter.

Ah well.

Maybe that’s the jading of an England fan, fate’s most gleeful puppet weighed down by however many years of hurt it is now. Perhaps it’s just because I’ve gotten so much older. Or just my interests no longer align as much as they did a decade ago. It’s likely some sort of combination of the three but I really wasn’t enthused in watching. Of course, if I had the opportunity to watch the game in person things would be different, I’d take in any game I could regardless of the country. Because watching a match is one thing, being at one is another. So, at this point I’d like to ask my first question again with an extra caveat – how many of you watched the World Cup in VR?

I’d imagine not many of you. For the record, I didn’t either.

But why not? It’s not like there weren’t many options to do so. In the UK we had the ability to do so thanks to the BBC, who have continued their investment in VR, something they’ve been taking in many different directions but that they have also incorporated into their sports coverage. If my interest would be peaked by being at a match, shouldn’t I be wanting to watch it in VR? After all that’s the point. You’re taken there! You ARE there! Well, yes. But how many times have we seen coverage like that and what it actually is, is you sitting in a room watching a big screen? A lot of the time when it’s a social platform, like (ironically) Bigscreen this is fine. Absolutely fine. It suits its purpose. But if you’re going to be doing sport in this area the VR needs to be more than that. I don’t want a cosy living room with a window. I want to be in the crowd, yes but somewhere I choose. I want to be on the pitch. I want to see what player X can see and at the moment… we really can’t. We’re getting there yes, there’s the stuff that Intel are doing. There’s also the highlights that NextVR are doing for things like wrestling which are getting to the point where VR for sport should be.

BBC VR Football - World Cup 2018
The BBC’s option fell into the ‘room with a view’ trap.

If VR sport were baseball we’re still on first base, there’s a runner on second, but we’ve not got much say in what they’re doing. All we can do is try to get there to that point. Will we be there in four and a half years? I hope so. Will everyone else have the patience to wait?

And that’s my third, and last question for the week.