The Drum takes a look at some of the most innovative sports stories changing the fan experience.
From the recent howls of derision from aggrieved football fans over the use of the video assistant referee (VAR), you’d think that the intrusion of technology into sport could only produce negative results. The reality is that – wrong offside calls aside – the employment of technology in sports is creating new experiences for fans, entirely original and often game-changing ways for them to interact with sport.
Those experiences range from the transformational – allowing audiences to sit within the cockpit of a Formula 1 car through consumer-grade virtual reality (VR) headsets – to the practical – allowing for constant checking of odds via one of many gambling apps, or smooth viewing for audiences with poor internet connections, to assisting clubs in their pre/post-match analysis (see box out). Regardless of how revolutionary the technology behind the experience, each new development is altering the fan experience.
To date, the reality of being a sports fan has been accepting that the particular experience of the sportsmen and women was a world apart from their own. The dream of physically walking out on to the pitch at Wembley or taking a hairpin bend at Silverstone would always be that – just a dream. With VR, however, that dream is a huge step more attainable.
Formula 1, for instance, partnered with tech provider DreamVR to allow fans to view an immersive 360-degree view from select moments of a race, from completing a lap to the pit walk itself. In practice it’s all very reminiscent of the work done by early VR game makers. Following in the footsteps of racing games such as TrackMania and WipEout, putting fans in the actual cockpit feels like the future of racing coverage.