Are you ready for some VR football? Fox kicks it off this weekend

College football is ready for its virtual close-up this weekend. Fox Sports and LiveLike will livestream the game between Ohio State and Oklahoma in VR this Saturday.

The broadcast will feature five cameras, which will be placed around the stadium for “best impact.” LiveLike allows users to switch between camera perspectives on-the-fly during the broadcast. The fan becomes the producer of the football broadcast, while feeling like they’re front-row in a sold out stadium.

“We’re thinking about places you normally aren’t going to get to in a stadium, and where you get to see action from an interesting angle,” explained Mike Davis, Senior Vice President of field and technical operations at Fox Sports Media Group. “We’ll have a wide shot to see the game as if you were sitting in a higher region of the stadium. Then we’ll have two cameras on the 20 by the team benches to be there with some good angles of the red zone action. And we’ll have two cameras in the end zones, probably on the goal posts. LiveLike cameras aren’t very big, so you can do something like that.”

We’re thinking about places you normally aren’t going to get […] where you get to see action.

Fox Sports has been at the forefront of experimenting with virtual reality over the past 18 months, having partnered with NextVR on NASCAR races, international soccer, boxing, Big East college basketball, and a pair of U.S. Open golf tournaments, all viewed through Samsung’s GearVR.

Now, Fox has broadened its virtual reality scope through LiveLike, which will livestream key NCAA football match-ups this season in what Fox Sports calls a “virtual reality luxury box experience.”

Unlike NextVR, LiveLike works across all current virtual reality platforms, and will even allow fans who haven’t invested in a headset yet to check out a scaled-down “magic window experience” on any touch-enabled iOS or Android device. Fox Sports will be promoting the VR experience during its pre-game broadcast, as well as from the booth during the game.

Virtual reality, real fans

LiveLike co-founder and chief brand officer Miheer Walkavar told Digital Trends that the Fox luxury box will launch as a solo experience this Saturday. But the plan is to add multiplayer to the mix later this year. The software is designed to allow two to four people in a suite at once. Real voice chat will allow friends to gather and talk while they check out the 180-degree action in front of them.

Davies said the inaugural Ohio State vs. Oklahoma game will allow fans to look up at the JumboTron in VR to catch the live 2D broadcast with replays of the action. There will also be information like team rosters, schedules, and stats. Since the suite is a full 360-degree experience, statistics, replays and other information can be placed around the suite in the future.

Fox_CFB_Suite2_PR

Fox also plans to capture VR highlights of each game. When fans visit the suite in the future, they can watch some of the outstanding plays from the Ohio State vs. Oklahoma game in the replay room.

“We didn’t want to overload the experience this first time, but we have many ideas that will work well with this interactive environment,” Davies said. “They’ll see other things like more in-depth stats, and we’ll get into linear replays on command that you control, and we think the idea of virtual reality replays is interesting. But first, we’re just trying to get people used to the fact that they’re going to drive the VR experience.”

Miheer said every aspect of the virtual suite can be customized, which means Fox Sports could sell, or give away, different elements like team posters and swag to make a fan’s hangout like a virtual man cave. That opens up new opportunities for sponsors and brands to connect with college football fans.

Trying the waters, for now

“This weekend is the beginning of at least four different games this season and we think LiveLike has a cool take on what VR and sports can be,” Davies said. “We’ve tested this technology in soccer and motorsports, and there are a lot of other sports we want to try, but we also want to look at additional college football games in the future.”

Statistics, replays, and more can be placed around the virtual room.

Davies said one of the things he’s most excited about is multiplayer, which is something Fox Sports wants to do.

“We’re taking a walk before we run approach, but we’re looking to include multiplayer in future game offerings,” Davies said. “It’s an answer to the complaint that virtual reality is an isolated experience, and we’re trying to find ways to make it more social.”

Kickoff, in reality and virtual reality, for the future of NCAA football on Fox Sports begins September 17 at 7:30pm EST. Fans can watch Ohio State at Oklahoma using the Fox Sports VR app available on iOS, Android, the Oculus Store and Samsung’s Milk VR store. 

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