The NFL season in virtual reality is officially underway. On Sunday, October 15, the NFL and virtual reality production company NextVR started its second season of bringing NFL game highlights into virtual reality with the Green Bay Packers matchup against division rivals Minnesota Vikings.
NextVR will be responsible for bringing five NFL games’ highlights into virtual reality this season, more than the three VR highlight packages it provided in 2016. Microsoft’s new Windows Mixed Reality is the latest to join Samsung Gear VR and Google’s Daydream as compatible headsets with the NextVR app.
The Packers-Vikings game had its fair share of exciting highlights, but Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers shoulder injury gave a close-up view in VR that few others were able to see. Using 4K stereoscopic cameras placed in the end zone under the field goal post, you were able to see Rodgers’ dejected face roll by inches from your face as he was carted off the field. From seeing his face that close, you could tell how much excruciating pain he was in.
The VR highlights are also a bit more TV-ready this season, as well. Following the game, former NFL running back and new NextVR commentator Reggie Bush explained a Packers touchdown using graphics to help illustrate the play. Those same graphics have been paramount to any traditional NFL broadcast for years.
Even though the NBA, MLB, and other sports leagues have live-streamed games in virtual reality in the last year, the NFL’s absence isn’t entirely surprising. Earlier this year, the NFL made it quite clear that VR is still not the right place to stream live games yet. The video resolution of mobile VR headsets and the limited consumer reach of PC-grade VR are not up to the NFL’s standards for delivering live games. The NFL also wants VR to allow for a bit more social interaction, which companies such as Facebook and HTC have been working on.
Immersing yourself in the best plays in VR was a weekly affair last season, but is now occurring every two weeks. You can download the free NextVR app in the Oculus Store and Google Play. The app will be available for the Windows Mixed Reality headset on October 29.
Here are the four remaining games that will have VR highlights this season:
- Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots on Sunday, October 29
- Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, November 12
- Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders on Sunday, November 26
- Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants on Sunday, December 10