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Jacksonville Jaguars Say Fans Want to Watch Games Through Oculus Rift

A startup called 3D-4U lets fans watch through the Rift at the Jaguars' stadium.

Courtesy 3D-4U

You may have to skip on the stadium nachos. And probably the beer, too. But those things aside, how does watching a sports game in virtual reality compare to the real thing?

That’s the interest of a Washington state-based startup called 3D-4U, which is trying to use VR headsets like the Oculus Rift to simulate front-row seat experiences. On Sunday, it tested one of those experiences in Jacksonville, Fla., by inviting attendees of an NFL game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts to watch part of the game through the Rift.

The fluffy press release about the test, shockingly, says everyone had a good time.

“I was amazed that I could look around while the game was being played — it was like I was right there,” one fan who tried the rig is quoted as saying. Never mind the fact that this test was being conducted right there, in Everbank Field’s Fan Cave, a luxury lounge overlooking the field.

Snark aside, I demoed 3D-4U’s technology earlier this year with President Sankar Jayaram, so here’s a bit more about what the “amazed” fan saw.

The company positions between four and six cameras around the field, and depending on where the action is happening, viewers can change their angle on the game. Each camera is slightly zoomed in while recording video, which makes it possible to look around in the video by turning your head. It was also possible, at least in the demo I saw, to rewind the game and see a big play again, sort of like a cable DVR.

A mobile version of this sports experience, called iStadium, is available for iOS and Android. However, you can’t watch the games available in the app unless you have a special bar code from having attended in person, and when I tried to watch the Jaguars-Colts game, it blocked me because “You are not inside stadium Wi-Fi.”

One big difference from a digitally rendered world, and a potential detriment to immersion shared by other live-action cinematic VR companies, is the inability to move your head to get a different angle on something in 3-D space. Technically called “positional tracking,” this was a crucial part of the experience in the newly unveiled Crescent Bay prototype of the Oculus Rift, as well as its predecessor, the DK2.

The folks at 3D-4U also expect live music concerts to be a big draw for people interested in trying virtual reality. The company has partnered with Ricky Martin in the past, and singer Marc Anthony sits on its board.

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