This weekend it all kicks off. The Premier League season. Match of the Day. Goal of the Month.
One night in Kiev? All is forgotten. Almost.
As we saw at the World Cup, Virtual Reality is starting to make its mark in football. Not huge strides at first, but people are taking notice of how it can change the way we watch the beautiful game.
Augmented Reality meanwhile, already has a foothold. Those clever bods at Match of the Day have been using AR for some time with offside lines during playbacks and even those movable graphics of players. Alan Shearer has never had it so easy.
Here at Laduma, we teamed up with Ross Barkley in 2017 to create an innovative piece of 360° Virtual Reality content that placed fans in the shoes of the then-Everton midfielder during the build-up to a free kick.
We captured how he takes a shot from a number of different camera angles, while conveying how he deals with that pressure during a game. Motion graphics, music and voice over helped to build tension leading up to the free-kick.
For years, matchday programmes were a football institution – much like Bovril, Woodbines and the pre-game pint.
But in today’s modern world, the humble club magazine has to stay ahead to stay relevant. And Bristol City might just have the answer.
By pointing their AR-enabled device at a dedicated page in the programme, Robins fans can access match highlights, interviews and pre-game messages from the club.
At the start of this year, Blackpool FC decided to embrace VR in a bid to help players improve technically and make better decisions in match situations.
The Seasiders have started wearing headsets with software linked to game strategies and training scenarios during coaching sessions at Bloomfield Road.
The club’s use of VR even featured on Sky Sports:
Of course, we can’t forget the BBC’s admirable efforts with VR at this year’s World Cup in Russia.
A total of 400,000 people downloaded the BBC World Cup VR app, showing that so far the acorns are still small in comparison to traditional TV screens.
Alongside the main view inside a virtual ‘studio’, users could also choose to watch the game behind one of the goals. Free kicks and all. These views could be switched at a moment’s notice – a bit like running from the main stand to the Kop to watch a penalty. But immediate.
Here at Laduma, our CEO Ben Smith and VP of Strategy Alex Kunawicz had their say on the BBC’s first foray into the world of VR:
Bayern Munich, meanwhile, has been giving fans a chance to have Mixed Reality experiences with players.
Fans can use their mobile device camera on any flat surface to make players appear, giving them the option to jump in and take a screenshot photo with the Bayern stars.
The images can be personalized to feature different kits and here’s the clever bit – the whole experience is linked to the purchase of replica shirts in the club store. Clever eh?
Over at Anfield, Liverpool Football Club has introduced a world-first VR stadium experience. It’s only available to stadium tour visitors and replicates the sights and sounds of matchdays.
It allows visitors to immerse themselves from a player’s perspective, taking in the unique atmosphere of a Liverpool home game. It uses full-body VR technology and transports users onto the penalty spot at Anfield. Right in front of The Kop, of course…
Think back to how Match of the Day looked in 2008. And look at it today. Now look ahead another 10 years and imagine an AR version of Alan Shearer sitting next to you, analysing the action. Even Ian Wright, if you prefer.
So yes, soccer is taking VR and AR seriously. As the Premier League kicks off, these technologies are not a major part of the overall coverage or even the fan experience.
But they are finding niches and crucially – those niches are being continually expanded upon. Not huge strides, but baby steps. Year after year.