When we talk about Virtual Sports, we are always referring to the games that you can enjoy a bet on when visiting sports betting sites. However, the terms can refer to much more than that and there is no doubt that this other use of the term is starting to become more widely adopted across society.
This can be somewhat confusing for someone looking for say Virtual Sports betting to be presented with articles and information about how Virtual Reality headsets and software is being used within the sports industry, but it does go to show how this technology is being used in many different creative ways, not just within the sports betting industry.
Of course, the key element of this other kind of Virtual Sports is the Virtual Reality headset, which we will explain a little about below for those that are perhaps less informed about this immersive form of technology.
It’s fair to say that while Virtual Sports betting has blasted its way intosports betting sites very quickly and from there become one of the most important revenue streams in the industry in a double-quick time, the Virtual Reality experience, which has been around for considerably longer, has taken a far more leisurely approach to becoming adopted across wider sections of the community.
Virtual Reality requires the user to wear a headset which is placed over their head and over their eyes. Inside the headset is a screen, which offers a “virtual’ world which the player can interact with either by using a special control (such as a handset) or by moving parts of their body. The software translates these movements from the player into actions within the game and this is then fed back to the player audibly and visually through the headset.
That is the essence of Virtual Reality and it has been around in many guises since the 1990s, when it was promised to be the next big thing in computer gaming. However, the predicted boom never quite took off as expected and there are a number of reasons for that.
First off, Virtual Reality headsets and the software and hardware required to use them effectively, are expensive. Even today, when PlayStation 4 developers Sony released their own Virtual Reality headset a couple of years ago, the cost (which was significantly reduced compared to previous models) was still as expensive, if not more so, than buying the console on which to play the games.
Secondly, the headsets are cumbersome and not the most comfortable to use for long periods of time. The effects of the movement on screen for some users can produce nausea similar to travel sickness (and this is particularly prevalent in games that move in three dimensions, or which have an element of speed included).
Perhaps the biggest obstacle Virtual Reality has yet to overcome is the fact that your headset must remain wired to the console or PC for it to work. This massively restricts the ability to move and reduces the ways in which the technology can be used. In addition, many people do not have an ample space in their home where they would be able to use Virtual Reality technology to the fullest. For example, how can you walk 100m when you are playing a game attached to a console by a few metres of wire, in a room that is, say 4 metres square?
In the film Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg hinted that special treadmills (which could allow a player to walk or run in any direction, while essentially remaining still) could be a way around this, but of course, that is a fictional film and the reality is that such a device does not yet exist in the modern world and even if it did, few people would be able to either afford it, or want it installed in their home.
However, some broadcasters are now starting to use Virtual Reality technology, admittedly with some mixed results and teething troubles. In a Sky Sports Monday Night Football program this past week, former Liverpool FC footballer Jamie Carragher was the first to use the technology to illustrate a key point from the game and although the demonstration didn’t perhaps go as smoothly as the production team would have hoped, it does show fans things from a different perspective and could well be worth persevering with in this particular instance, despite criticism from many fans and viewers this past week.
One way that people have tried to come up with a solution for the issues that have stymied the progress of Virtual Reality is to do away with the headsets once and for all. A new era of smartphones and tablets has allowed developers to utilise the camera and video functions of these devices to usher in an era of Augmented Reality.
Augmented Reality is different to Virtual Reality in that you require nothing but your phone or tablet to access the world and you are free to move around the world as you see fit. The software uses the images of the world around you from your phone or tablet to produce the game world and superimposed over that can be any assortment of items, characters or similar which the player can then interact with.
Perhaps the most popular example of Augmented Reality is the game Pokemon Go, where players could use their smartphone or tablet to wander around environments looking for Pokemon monsters, who would appear on their screen in certain locations. Players would then aim to collect as many of these monsters as they could. Indeed, the game remains popular to this day and there are websites online devoted to mapping out where characters can be found in the real world.
Augmented Reality though is being used in many other ways, including on astronomy software (where projections of stars, planets, nebulae and similar can be projected on to a real-life night sky so you can understand what you are looking at) and it also has an obvious use in being used with mapping software, such as Apple Maps or Google Earth or similar.
Augmented Reality is certainly a far less intrusive, easier to use and more practical application of Virtual Reality software, however it is nowhere near as immersive for the player.
So Virtual Sports may be very different to other forms of Virtual Reality or indeed Virtual Sports in another context, but the technology does have some similarities and it seems that the birth of Virtual Reality played a key role in the eventual development of Virtual Sports.