Using Virtual Reality for Collegiate Sports
From napkin sketches to photorealistic illustrations, renderings help construction project stakeholders understand design concepts. But compelling as they can be, renderings are still just static 2D images, and only as large as the medium they’re viewed on.
Now, virtual reality (VR), which immerses people in a simulated 3D environment through computer technology and a headset, is changing how architects communicate design. It’s a new way of experiencing architecture, one I think is especially applicable in sports design.
Design Communication: Many sports facilities are referenced or visited during design to better understand an owner’s vision and needs. VR can bring similar structures and spaces directly to the client quickly through 360-degree photography. Similarly, architects can utilize VR to communicate a design to help secure the all-important stakeholder “buy-in.”
Revenue Generating Tool: Sports facilities are full of premium products and sponsorship activation areas—suites, club seats, loge boxes, etc.—all of which are often pre-sold before construction is complete. VR is an advanced tool for an organization to reach prospects and generate revenue. A fundraiser or premium sales representative can transport a donor and premium patron into the space and provide real-life representation of their view. A member of the corporate sales team can show potential sponsor partners how their brand will be activated in a venue and connect with the fan base.
Talent Recruitment: Collegiate programs often use a new facility to attract top student-athletes as soon as the project officially begins. Student-athletes are looking for program differentiators, and VR enables teams to bring them on a tour—from locker rooms and training facilities to simulating the game-day experience—before construction starts.
VR is a young technology, one that’s rapidly becoming more accessible. And its possibilities in sports and architecture are just beginning to be realized. The 2016 Rio Olympics, for example, will be the first to provide VR coverage. Athletes are utilizing VR to practice, and owners want to provide millions of virtual seats to watch the action.
Thankfully, you don’t have to spend a lot to explore the technology: Google, for example, offers VR apps and inexpensive viewers. It may not be the holodeck, but given how quickly VR is advancing, that amazing Star Trek reality doesn’t see quite so far off now.