The Convergence of Virtual Reality and Live Sports


Westerville, OH -- (SBWire) -- 01/28/2015 --GoPro (GPRO) last week announced a partnership with the National Hockey League (NHL) to provide hockey fans never-before-seen perspectives of the game, including the use of cameras worn by players and officials. The company also is in partnership with Vislink to provide real-time, on-athlete video perspectives for live broadcasts. Similarly, since the end of November 2014, the Guitammer Company (GTMM) has been partnering with the San Jose Sharks and Comcast SportsNet California (CSNCA) to broadcast this year's Sharks home games in '4D', utilizing sensors on the boards to broadcast real-time the feel and bone jarring impacts as the NHL players crash each other into the boards for the viewers at home to experience. These developments constitute a compelling step forward in the broadcast of live sports, and it might be worth looking at where this is headed.

Take a look at some of the language from GoPro's press releases. From the NHL release, GoPro's Senior Director of Lifestyle Marketing Todd Ballard says in part "Together we will push the boundaries of video content production in hockey and provide fans of the sport with unique, immersive perspectives of the game that they've never seen before, from players and officials to in-goal and rink side."

GoPro President Tony Bates, in the Vislink release, says "GoPro has changed the way people see the world, creating an immersive viewing experience. Now with unique GoPro perspectives available to broadcasters, watching live events is like being part of the action instead of watching it from the stands. Our partnership with Vislink brings a new level of excitement to live broadcast and we can't wait to see what players, broadcasters and fans do with this new innovative solution."

David Koppett, Senior Executive Producer for CSNCA, in the Sharks' broadcast release, stated, "Our goal is always to bring fans closer to the action, and what better way than to allow them to actually feel what's happening on the ice. Guitammer's 4D technology helps us transmit the electric energy of a Sharks hockey game right into your living room."

The idea of being part of the action was discussed by Guitammer's CEO Mark Luden at last year's "Cable Show" in Los Angeles. "Imagine not just watching the race… but imagine 'being' the driver and being able to feel what he feels."

These ideas and words and technologies all feed into the virtual reality zeitgeist that is taking the entertainment world by storm. "Immersive perspectives," "part of the action", and "'being' the driver" speak to the idea that we can break down the wall between the spectator and participant. So, how might we be able to experience, in a virtual environment, a live sporting event? Some of the technologies are already out there, and more are certainly being developed.

Headsets are the most obvious example, with Facebook's Oculus Rift perhaps the most advanced in terms of virtual reality. Microsoft recently debuted its HoloLens headsets, allowing users to play video games and create 3D models in a holographic computing space. Did you know that there are gaming vests (and gaming seats) that transmit the feel and impact of first person shooter games like Call of Duty? Have you seen the Birdly virtual reality installation that engages a number of senses to simulate the experience of flying? Simulated racers are out there and are even used in training by actual race drivers.

It is not much of a leap from these existing technologies to imagine the time a race fan might buckle up in a simulated race car during a NASCAR broadcast, tap 'Activate Jimmy Johnson' on his mobile phone for a small fee, and drive the race from Mr. Johnson's perspective, seeing what he sees and feeling what he feels inside the car. Extrapolate that to any number of spectator sports. Tap 'Tom Brady' and experience the real-time life of an NFL quarterback. Or 'Shaun White' and launch some serious air on a snowboard, all in the comfort of your own home using technology from companies like GoPro, Guitammer and others.

The NHL is leading the way right now amongst major professional sports. With on-player sensors already in use in the National Football League and in Major League Soccer, and with virtual reality technologies being developed and advanced throughout the world in an almost open-source environment, it is not unreasonable to think that what used to seem like a neat experiment is fast becoming the way to experience live sports.

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Source: UPTICK Newswire

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Everett Jolly

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