Sun Sentinel: University of Miami using virtual reality to put fans on the field


This week, the University of Miami is launching the Canes VR channel, an immersive 360-degree video experience. For $30, UM fans can get a virtual reality viewer to attach to their cellphone and a subscription to the channel showing specially produced content throughout the 2016-17 academic year. Miami and Penn State, in partnership with EON Sports VR, are pioneering the technology in college sports this season as a means of bringing fans not only behind the scenes but into the vortex of their teams’ activities.

This week, the University of Miami is launching the Canes VR channel, an immersive 360-degree video experience. For $30, UM fans can get a virtual reality viewer to attach to their cellphone and a subscription to the channel showing specially produced content throughout the 2016-17 academic year.

“Some will be more experiential stuff — running through the smoke would be a prime example of something you could see through the virtual room,” said Jason Layton, UM’s senior associate athletic director for communications and sales.

Miami and Penn State, in partnership with EON Sports VR, are pioneering the technology in college sports this season as a means of bringing fans not only behind the scenes but into the vortex of their teams’ activities.

The channel is accessed on a smartphone, which is inserted into the viewer to bring the virtual world to life. After months of development, the channel is due to go live this week, with the viewer available to be ordered at hurricanesports.com.

“I put the headset on and I look around and I’m in a custom University of Miami lobby that allows me to interact with the various content streams that I would be interested in as a University of Miami fan,” said Brendan Reilly, CEO and founder of EON Sports VR. “So it’s kind of Netflix meets virtual reality meets the University of Miami. If you are a [UM] fan, all those things equal a pretty fun experience.”

Virtual reality has been most effectively applied to sports as a training tool. When EON Sports approached UM officials earlier this year, the company caught their attention with its baseball hitting VR simulator that utilizes former major-leaguer Jason Giambi teaching strike zone awareness and pitch recognition.

“We were kind of awestruck, to be honest,” said Tim Brogdon, UM assistant director of digital strategy. “We pride ourselves that we’re in with the cool crowd as far as doing things on social media or digital. We have fans all across the country and we want to be able to provide cool stuff no matter where you are, and this is a perfect opportunity to do that.”

The athletic department purchased two Samsung Gear 360 video cameras to give fans a unique, first-person peak inside their teams via virtual reality.

The production process isn’t as complicated as one might think. The cameras, about the size of a tennis ball, have dual lenses, each showing a 180-degree view. The video is transferred via Bluetooth to a Samsung S7 smartphone and automatically stitched together. It is then edited and uploaded to the Canes VR room, which is the environment the viewer sees to access the various content streams.

Read the full story here.

2016-10-23T16:19:47+00:00