The Intel Sports Group has teamed up with the PGA Tour to offer new ways for existing fans to experience golf through virtual reality and help attract new fans to the sport. Intel Sports will offer fans four different camera angles at The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL from May 11 to 14.
The live VR experience can be viewed on Samsung Gear VR headsets on a global basis through the PGA Tour VR Live app available on the Oculus store. In addition, the 360 video stream will be available exclusively on Twitter and Periscope during all four days of the event.
David Aufhauser, Intel Sports Group managing director, told AListDaily from a big picture perspective that the company is using the latest technology to create a brand new way to experience golf content.
“Golf is a unique sport because of the way the courses work and the integration of data into the experience,” Aufhauser explained. “Being able to transport the viewer so you feel like you’re there and enabling fans to choose their own camera angle is just the beginning. We’ll also have a VR Cast for a produced experience for fans that don’t want to control the experience.”
While Fox Sports and NextVR have brought the US Open to VR headsets the past few years, Aufhauser said what differentiates this Intel Sports VR experience is full stereoscopic 3D viewing.
“We add the whole element of depth through stereoscopic cameras, which mimics the human head and allows you to feel like you’re there on the 17th hole,” Aufhauser said.
Data is also important for the sport of golf, as well as fans watching at home—many of whom are trying to improve their own game.
“VR allows us to integrate, visualize and create new experiences that match data to video,” Aufhauser explained. “Now you have a 360-degree canvas to work with to integrate leaderboard data, traditional broadcast graphics overlay and make use of the landscape when you look up or down to gain additional information.”
The introduction of controllers for the Google Daydream and new Samsung Gear VR is also unlocking more opportunities for mobile VR as Intel Sports looks to the future. Fans will be able to jump around the four camera perspectives without needing to hit a button on the headset.
“Anything that allows for a more natural navigation and engagement with the content is something we embrace,” Aufhauser said.
After this initial activation, Aufhauser said it will be up to the PGA to decide how future events are covered in VR. And part of that decision will be dictated by how fans embrace this technology at TPC Sawgrass.
“We have the technology to cover all 18 holes, but it’s about how you do each green or fairway or tee and optimize each hole for each of these cameras,” Aufhauser said. “We’re starting with some cool targeted experiences and the growth will come from how fans interact with that.”
Aufhauser said the intent is to continue with the PGA on additional Tour stops.
“One of the reasons the PGA is becoming early adopters with these alternate experiences is that they’re playing to a younger crowd and tapping into the up-and-coming golfers that are entering the Tour,” Aufhauser explained. “They also have a very tech-savvy fan base, in general, and VR is important for them.”
Intel is also opening up the VR experience for those who don’t have a headset through a multiplatform distribution plan.
“While the main rich experience is the app for Gear VR, we can also stream live to Twitter 360,” Aufhauser said. “That allows the Tour to get a much broader audience and it’s a stepping stone for that audience into VR.”
The Intel Sports Group is a new brand under the tech giant that’s currently working with the NBA through Voke VR (which Intel acquired in November 2016) and now the PGA Tour.
“Anytime we have more events under our belt with the NBA with 360 technology or the PGA Tour with VR technology, the processes and learnings of working with these leagues get translated,” Aufhauser said. “While one technology is integrated into a broadcast and the other is integrated into an app, the understanding of things like what the fans want and how we work with their production translates to building out a better experience.”
The model at Intel Sports is to allow the NBA and Turner and the PGA Tour and its broadcast partners to build these experiences for their specific audiences, according to Aufhauser.
“Having everyone under one roof in this new business unit is important,” Aufhauser said.