Are Sports Fans Ready for a Virtual NFL Experience?

As virtual-reality technology matures, professional sports teams are experimenting with futuristic ways to enhance the fan experience.

In the near future, virtual reality (VR) will provide fans of football and other sports a new interactive feature on their favorite teams’ mobile apps, says John McCauley, vice president of content and strategy for OneUp Sports.

“It’s a storytelling tool for a team, and it’s a great opportunity for teams to generate more revenue and sponsorships and build their brand in a quality way,” he says.

McCauley predicts that VR headsets will become mass-market products during the 2016 holiday season. To gear up for that, he plans to create virtual-reality experiences for OneUp Sports clients, including the Washington Redskins and the New York Jets, within the next 12 months.

These virtual-reality experiences will allow fans to experience elements of the game that were previously inaccessible. For example, OneUp Sports will record an NFL head coach’s postgame victory speech in the locker room or film an athlete’s workout in the training room. Teams will then upload VR content onto their mobile apps, and fans will connect their smartphones to their VR headsets to immerse themselves in the VR experience.

If this sounds a bit like “The Sims” or “Second Life,” think again. These VR experiences will be real video experiences and will not look cartoonish, McCauley says. And virtual reality is just one piece of the larger IT push that the NFL is undertaking. Mobile apps are another initiative the NFL is investing in to build richer, more diverse fan experiences.

To help visualize the virtual-reality future that football is headed toward, here’s a look at what sports fans can expect.

ThinkStock/Darryl Sebro
Jan 27 2016