Ever wondered how it would be to return the tennis serve of a champion? If you’re headed to the U.S. Open later this month, you may have the chance to find out — without having to set foot on the court itself, or risk embarrassing yourself in front of the crowd when you don’t even see the ball coming.
It’s all thanks to the wonder of virtual reality. HTC has teamed up with American Express to provide a four-minute VR tennis session, during which you’ll trade shots and attempt to return the 100mph serve from a VR version of tennis superstar Maria Sharapova. It’s not just a visual digital recreation either. According to Sharapova herself, speaking in a video introducing the experience, the game will be “pretty close to real life.”
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The mixture of a CGI athlete blended with live action footage inside a VR environment is a world first, and an exciting demonstration of how VR may evolve to be used for entertainment, leisure, and even sports coaching in the future.
Sharapova wore a motion capture suit so her movements and play could captured using a full-body scan, and this data was used to create the CGI version used in the game. Players will wear HTC’s Vive VR headset, and Valve’s amazing Lighthouse tracking system will monitor all your movements. The Lighthouse system doesn’t use cameras to track your position, but a series of lights instead, and it’s very accurate.
For the person playing against her, It’ll be the combination of the HTC Vive headset, Lighthouse, and a special handheld controller that makes the experience come alive. If you think your tennis game is strong enough to go up against Maria Sharapova (even a VR version), then the You vs. Sharapova VR experience will be ready to try throughout the U.S. Open, inside Amex’s Fan Experience enclosure at the event. The U.S. Open takes place between August 31 and September 13 in New York.