There aren’t many sports left under the sun that VR hasn’t invaded, but tennis is one of them. That is until today.
NextVR, the VR broadcasting events known for offering live footage of real world events, today announced it will offer highlights of six of the final matches from the ongoing 2016 US Open Tennis Championships. Fans will pull on the Gear VR headset, open up the NextVR app and be virtually teleported to the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York where the tournament is hosted.
The experience will offer several different viewing angles of the Men’s and Women’s Semifinals and Finals matches, which run from September 8 through to September 11. Sadly that means we won’t get to watch World No. 2, Andy Murray, who exited the tournament yesterday after being defeated by Kei Nishikori. World No. 1 Novak Đoković is still in the running, though, so you might get to see him in action in VR for the first time. Highlights will appear soon after the matches have been played, so best avoid your Twitter feeds if you want to keep things a surprise.
Also available is a tour of the Arthur Ashe Stadium with former world No. 1 Billie Jean King, which includes a look at the venue’s new retractable roof.
Tennis actually makes a lot of sense for VR broadcasting. While other sports might be hard to follow with a headset, the simple rules and small court make it the ideal event to view in VR. In fact we recently heard a 360 filmmaker refer to watching an audience’s head movements as “the tennis effect”, joking about it looking as if their heads were following a ball on the court. With VR tennis, that’s what they’ll actually be doing.
If you’re looking to actually play some tennis in VR, then there is VR Tennis Online for the Oculus Rift, though we don’t exactly recommend it. For a more unique take on the sport, you can check out #SelfieTennis on the HTC Vive, in which you play against yourself.
With more than $80 million now raised, expect to see plenty more from NextVR going forward.