Virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality: kids—and, eventually, adults— will spend increasingly significant amounts of their lives inside these environments. Goldman Sachs predicts the AR/VR market will be $85 billion by 2025. Digi-Capital is far more bullish, predicting it’ll reach $150 billion by just 2020. VR and AR are both heralded as revolutionary—VR akin to the invention of movies, and AR heretofore only depicted in movies. But sports still have to be played in actual reality, with the ball, by athletes, patrolled by referees with old-fashioned 99-cent whistles in their mouths. Are any of those billions for those who play in the real world?
VR will be huge, but it will be only a small subset of AR.
Singularity University VR designer
12 million VR headsets will have sold by the end of 2016 (7 million tethered high-end headsets and 5 million mobile low-end). That will more than double in 2017.
Everyone who buys a Samsung 7 gets a gear VR for free. In 2017, Apple gets in the game and matches the offer.
200,000 developers are creating VR content.
Though not high resolution yet, VR has already been broadcast from the NBA sidelines to the crew pits of the Daytona 500 to the tee box of golf’s US Open.
Two business factors will shape winners and losers in the virtual reality market in 2017: China is already 40% of the virtual reality market. But Facebook is banned in China, so Facebook can’t sell its high-end Oculus Rift there. Nor can Samsung sell its lower-end Gear VR (which snaps onto a Samsung phone), because it’s based on Oculus software. An ongoing saga of censorship clashes with China’s government have kept Google on the sidelines as well. Without these North American market leaders, a massive opportunity has opened for Chinese companies like Pico, Idealens, Deepoon and Pimax. Meanwhile, web giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu are buying up dozens of Chinese content and game startups.
High-Quality virtual reality headsets still have to be tethered to a computer more powerful than most people have at home. But they can also be tethered to a new video game console, such as Sony PS4 Neo with 4K resolution, which will be released before Christmas 2016. This is going to give Sony’s new headset a huge spike in sales, and it will outsell competitors by several million units. (PlayStation sales run over 10 million units a year.) Meanwhile, Microsoft’s new Xbox Scorpio—which will work with Oculus Rift—won’t be released until a year later for Christmas 2017. Also, a Sony VR headset is $200 cheaper.
Both factors point to Oculus Rift— the first VR headset most of us have heard about—coughing up the pole position it held from 2014 to 2016.
Sports rights holders will be happy. Especially UFC
Early data shows that streaming video is go-to content for early users of VR, despite the incredibly inventive games available. Seven of the top 10 Gear VR apps are video content, and 80% of users watch VR video daily. Some portion of that video will be live-streamed sports. But which sports in particular? That transformative sense of really “being there” only happens when the action is a few feet from the camera, such as with boxing and MMA, which can perch cameras above the corner posts. VR live streaming becomes 2D when the action is far away, such as across a soccer or football field.
On Christmas day millions of kids will be sick.
It’s antisocial to wear a headset. And you can see the pixels—4K video is sorely needed. But the biggest problem with VR is that it makes users nauseous. At first, it’s amazing. Then it gives you motion sickness. This is caused by a dozen factors that exacerbate the disconnect between the brain’s natural sensing and the headset’s visuals. Ironically, one of the reasons that watching video with a VR headset is popular is because the point of view stays put, so the motion sickness isn’t as bad as it is in games.
When you move in a game, 100% of the time, the user gets sick within five minutes.
An AT&T engineer and VR filmmaker
VR Headsets sold in 2016
Meanwhile, the groundwork for AR is laid. Pokemon Go gave the world a taste of augmented reality in a sort of 2D fashion. But sports can legitimately lay claim to the first live AR experience—the Virtual Yellow 1st & Ten Line, which has been included in NFL broadcasts since the late 1990s. Augmented reality in 2017 will make consumers familiar with three primary types of nascent AR:
01More Pokemon GO Treasure Finding
Walking through Ballpark Village to a Cardinals game, fans will collect Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina and other players. Or, to build their Ultimate team in FIFA 18, video gamers—rather than buying packs—can scoop up players outside the Emirates in North London.
In 2017, you will be able to hold your smartphone up in a stadium and see player data overlaid on the live action. At a business conference, looking at people through your camera will display their LinkedIn resume.
03Windshield Heads-up Displays
Already common in some cars—will have a wider field of view and integrate more information than map turns and speed, such as showing text messages and sports scores.
But a Revolution has begun
Both Meta and Magic Leap—the two best AR systems—have pledged to make their workplaces “screenless” by March 2017. Instead, employees will wear AR headsets, working on virtual screens that hang in the air above their desks. Those in the know will recognize augmented reality is everything that VR isn’t—crystal clear, with no sickness.
In the next three years, we’ll stumble through several cycles of excitement and disillusionment with AR/VR. But in 2020, it will all click. AR/VR will deliver sports fans thrilling new experiences in viewing, gaming and training.
160 million VR headsets will have been sold by 2020.
65 million of those will be sold in 2020 alone.
Playstation 2 sold 155 million units
A billion iphones have been sold
1.6 billion households worldwide have televisions
So VR, despite the hype, is not for everyone yet in 2020. It’s like video game consoles—you might not have one, but a friend will.
Watching Sports is Normal
On average, 10% of any viewing audience will wear VR headsets—higher for close-action sports like boxing. VR live streams will have graduated from raw camera feeds to incorporate storytelling devices—commentators, replays and camera toggling. The isolation factor will be somewhat moderated; viewers will be able to talk to friends and family watching the game across the country. More common will be passing around the headset at a viewing party, especially for highlights and replays.
Sports Games Explode
Dropping back to pass in Madden 20 will never have felt so real. Batting practice against the Cy Young winner will thrill. Sports in which one key player dominates the action will come to market first; team sports where every player is equally essential (like soccer) are harder to design. The controller has long been replaced by scanners that track human movements. Players will either confine their movements to a grid, or they’ll balance on curved plates and lean to sprint or cut.
VR Fitness is not a Gimmick
Transport yourself to yoga class from your mat at home. Box against remote sparring partners while your computerized cornerman yells tips. Break away from the peloton on your exercise bike.
Operating System Wars-Part 4
First it was VHS vs. Beta. Then it was PC vs. Mac. Then Android vs. iOS. In 2020, the business press will focus on the great rivalry between Magic Leap and Meta, or whoever owns them. We’ll buy the glasses—and get the phone free. Expect iPhone and Samsung sales numbers to reach over 200 million
sold in 2020.
If VR’s Analog is Game Consoles, AR’s Analog is the Smartphone. The Market is Everyone
The incorporation of long-awaited 5G hyper- connectivity will make these headsets ready for prime time. No longer will you have to be connected to a PC to get 4K graphics; no longer will you suffer a meager field of view to be untethered. New smartphones will connect by a flexible fiber-optic tether to lightweight glasses; many people will rarely check the phone itself, but will still want it there as a security blanket. For others, their phone will still be their primary device; they’ll just wear the glasses while driving.
VR Headsets Sold in 2020
Smartphone Connectivity is Here
Of Any Viewing Audience Wearing VR Headset
In the next three years we’ll stumble through several cycles of excitement and disillusionment with AR/VR. But in 2020, it will all click. AR/VR will deliver sports fans thrilling new experiences in viewing, gaming and training.
Sports Consumption in AR
Every way you now use your phone to consume sports, you will also use in AR. You will bring up web pages and tap on apps—rectangular screens will float in the air. When the game is on, you can open up a live stream and either pin it off to the side or enlarge it to a 90-inch screen, front and center. Because the glasses use lasers to project the light directly onto your retina, the image will be perfect. Best of all, you can create a screen and then share it with friends. Or the party can switch into 3D mode, and the basketball game can be played in volumetric video on your coffee table as everyone sits around it.
The stadium experience will be transformed. Here’s why:
All the data you could possibly want can be overlaid on the live action. Let’s say you’re at a baseball game. The purist can turn it off. The geek can see defensive rotation stats, pitch speed and speed of the batter running to first. As a pinch hitter is warming up, his highlights are available off to the side of your view and you can tap to watch.
You have your own personal replay device built into your glasses. Swipe left in the air to go back in time. Raise two thumbs and the highlight gets posted to social media.
03NEXT-LEVEL TRAINING FOR BOTH THE PROS AND THE AMATEURS.
Imagine you’re playing tennis with AR glasses. As your opponent’s backhand loads, the artificial intelligence engine is already displaying where you likely need to run to. As the opponent’s shot is on its way, you’re already seeing a target in the opposite court that you should aim at.
Want to learn receiver footwork from Jerry Rice? He’s stored in your helmet. He’ll be there in volumetric video, on the field. First he shows you a game highlight of his. Then he breaks his route down into pieces—his three-step jab, his dig footwork, his route-tree decision making. As you run through it, you can see on the field exactly where each foot should land. A friend can even throw you darts as you break open.
By 2025 the distinctions between AR and VR will be insignificant; the devices will converge and be multifunctional. Their vast capabilities to blend natural and synthetic vision will cause us to rethink everything—from the social norms of human interaction to how private and public spaces are designed and navigated. New sports will inevitably emerge that will be designed to test athletes’ performance across the spectrum of mixed reality.
Headsets and AR glasses are still selling at peak smartphone numbers—150 million per quarter—because each year, the devices improve so rapidly.
Humans won’t need prescription glasses anymore. The AR system corrects vision for you, tracking your eye movement and focal point.
Batteries made from graphene rather than lithium ion don’t just double the capacity, they recharge in seconds.
Photons replace electrons as 3D photonic nanocrystals are integrated.
Hello, 8K video! You’ll have pure 20/20 vision of everything rendered.
AR and VR converge, as new glasses can bring on darkness by canceling light waves, much like noise-canceling headphones do.
In 2025, we’ll wear “smart contact lenses” that will gradually evolve to full AR functionality.
Education will be transformed into something far more vivid. History teachers will transport their students to the beaches of Normandy or the Cu Chi tunnels of Vietnam. In biology class, the entire room will become the inside of a mammalian cell.
On home-buying shows, you’ll be in the home. And in those homes of 2025, designers will set aside ever-bigger blank rooms as VR studio pods, with padding on the walls and sensors in the walls. Welcome to the new gaming room. When you call somebody, they will appear in 3D volumetric video. You can walk around them or get up close.
Watching sports will be insanely cool. Sports cameras will switch from spherical video to volumetric video— allowing you to joystick your point of view to any angle during live action. You’ll be able to fly up to the huddle, spin over to the linebacker during the pre-snap and close in on a receiver as the ball is in the air.
But mixed-reality games will be even cooler. Expect old naval bases and empty warehouse districts to be the setting for intense mixed-reality games, where players throw fireballs at each other. Get hit, and everyone sees a big explosion; the player is still alive but without his powers for 30 seconds. Mini-helicopters fly overhead, sounding real. Games that evolve from today’s eSports, designed for the modern age, will better take advantage of technology than sports games invented in the late 1800s. Abandoned neighborhoods of Rust Belt cities will become the new eSports complexes where youth clubs train three times a week, hoping to become professional eAthletes who play in football stadiums and basketball arenas.
eSports will begin to poach athletic talent
Need someone who can run a 4.3-second 40-yard dash while engaged in hand-to-hand combat? Draft a college receiver.
Need someone who can scale a 50-foot wall in 6 seconds? Recruit the best rock climbers.
Need someone who can run end to end for the full 90 minutes? Sign a soccer player.
Need someone who can avoid laser shots in open space then flip over a 9-foot wall into a crouch? A gymnast can do a double salto into a double layout with half twist.
VR Headsets sell per quarter
Video is the norm