Jakubowski-Vision Paper- FAN VR
By Max Jakubowski
May 12, 2017
The Sports Spectrum: Ever so Encapsulating
It’s the year 2050 and if you think you could pick simply watch sports on TV or on your phone, you’re in store for a treat. No one has been watching sports on a TV or a phone for a while now, as that “trend” has faded away. If you told a child now a days that you “watched” sports games on your couch in front of a TV, or even from social media platforms, they would look at you with wide eyes. Now, Everyone uses all interactive sport technology now to be immersed within a sporting event.
The first model came out a 10 years ago, and many were unsure if it was worth it to make the investment in one. ESPN was still working out some technical and logistical problems with their model, which allowed people to virtual watch games and pick the location of where they wanted to be. The total cost of $5,700 to install the system on both home and mobile platforms seems extravagant, especially with the seating option the system gives you to enhance game day experience instead of a typical stadium view. It all seemed excessive to consumers, including myself. However, more and more people were purchasing them as the quality and experience began to spread like wildfire about how much this changed the viewing of sports. So, like the rest of the world, I decided to dive in and see what I was missing.
I was having a conversation with my Dad, where I explained to him everything about the technology. How It was selected by ESPN as a prototype to immerse people not at the games in person. People would put on VR headsets and headphones and then essentially “assigned a seat” throughout the stadium, where they could feel the game atmosphere and have feeling of really be there, even if they were hundreds of miles away. The great feature too was that at any moment, the user could instantly flip to “broadcast view” which is standard to what people used to watch on TV. That mode would allow for replays and commentary. The system has all the capabilities of making it feel like the viewer was at the game, with crowd and games noise, without dealing with the hassle of travel, ticket prices, or even the weather. The goal of the “FAN VR” the common name associated to all the systems, is to get peoples emotional state raised enough, to stimulate more of a reaction and response to sporting events and cause this piece of entertainment to be known throughout the rest of the world. Someday, the systems are hopefully they can pair the technology of buying stadium food to the system, yet that seems far-fetched.
While working for a local morning news station, I was assigned a story to how this could be implemented in terms of showcasing news stories, I chatted with my tech industry sources to get a better idea of the story and if this technology had been explored. Many have told me the feasibility problem is that the camera and audio systems that are used in stadiums as part of the FAN VR systems take an extremely long time to set up and need certain operators to make sure they are properly function at all times. The problem with news stories is they often need to be reported quickly, something that does not bode well with the FAN VR systems. Think of trying to report on the war in Africa with these systems. It would be tough to report with a system that could take hours to set up and optimize, all for a small 2 minute report.
But I have a breakthrough during that same day. While our traffic drone returns to the station after analyzing morning traffic patterns, it dawns on me that these systems could be fitted to drones. The Fan VR systems cameras and mics are all stationary, as it is needed for users to lock into the seat per each stadium. Under my idea, the drone would fly to the destination under my control (or even the fan) , collect the right camera angles and settings and then initialize floating status for a long period of time. Then, users could choose the angle of view they want. They can even can slightly rotate the drone for better VR experience. But since it looks unlikely I could quit my job and run off and try to develop this myself, I resign back to my holographic desk. I do hit my sources up to ask about drone technology merging with Fan VR, but they tell me the stationary status of the system is the issue, needing drones to be almost completely still while hovering in the air.
Last time when I was reporting at the government digital press conferences, they did indicate drone research package aid was expected to be passed by the house, granted in got through the senate and the 102 senators (Puerto Rico joined in 2030, btw). Security and safety issues about drones are a thing of the past, with minimal drones incidents since the mid 20’s, when the drone industry really took off.
That night, I was settling in with my VR set in my bed. I wanted to catch the end of the Las Vegas Raiders game. The menu popped up, with my standard seat location in the middle of the field, upper deck. It asked me if for $4.50 if I would like to upgrade to a lower level view, but I decline. Was fine with location and was likely to turn on the commentary mode as well. The video flicked on and in a minute I heard the chantings of “F the Rams” shouting in my ear. I fell asleep with a vendor passing by my location. The system includes the auto sleep mode, automatically shutting down when the viewer’s eyes are closed for a certain amount of time.
The audio system has sensors in every part of the stadium, along with the specific area where the viewer decides to “sit.” The system also include audio commands, recognizing my instructions accurately and only recognize my voice when I ask to change view or go back to certain views.
Let’s highlight how this technology was installed in stadiums . There are roughly 30 cameras in major four sports locations, including some major universities for college football and basketball. Most stadiums have a typical 8-10 seating options. There are usually 2-3 seating upgrade locations, where users could pay an upgrade price to be able to sit closer to the action. Price wise, the system is upwards of $5k and the annual programming fee is about $150 per sports league or the Fan VR package of $850 for all 4 major sports and premium college games.
I recall a conversation with a friend in the sports entertainment industry, who I use often as a source, about how he thought this type of technology would blow up. This was back in 2027 and I thought it was only speculative talking. This man was spot on with his call nearly 25 years ago. There’s a reason I’m still friendly with him, especially when getting tips about technology trends.
I can still remember the days when the tablet was the move when watching sports because of multiple camera angles to choose from. I can still remember the passion of viewers when “3D Slam” came out, failing to live up to the hype of watching 3D sports.
I’m thankful for my job working for a media company, specifically morning news. But sometimes I wonder if I’ve meant to do something else, like my drone and Fan VR combination idea. Anyone want to spot me a few million to start a prototype?