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A VR experience transported me to a live soccer game

Virtually Live hopes to cover most sports eventually.

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The virtual reality space is still a work in progress. While there are already many use cases for it, from gaming to education, developers continue to find new ways to fiddle with the technology. A pure example of this is Virtually Live, a startup designing immersive VR experiences for live sports. Here's the gist behind its project: Once you've strapped on a virtual reality headset, you can follow games in real-time and feel like you're close to the action.

Gallery: Virtually Live at GDC 2016 | 9 Photos

To convey that sensation, Virtually Live uses computer-generated imagery of players and stadiums, plus tracking information provided by Stats, which has deals with some of the "top" European football (soccer) teams in the world as well as the NBA. My demo was powered by an HTC Vive, and took me into a match between English Premier League rivals Manchester United and Manchester City. I had a few options once I set foot in that world. One of them was to watch the game's broadcast on a screen, or hear audio from it, inside a virtual VIP suite. But, if I wanted to do that, I may as well just do so on my big-screen TV, not a VR headset.

Now, what I did find bizarre was the ability to transport myself anywhere within Etihad Stadium, Manchester City's home venue, including the field during the match and across the different seat levels. It's obviously not the same as being physically present, but I can see how some people would enjoy an experience like this. Namely, those who can't make it to games on a regular basis or simply want something different than the traditional television-viewing experience.

Right now, Virtually Live doesn't have a licensing deal with the EPL, so it legally can't offer what I experienced to the public. That said, the company did recently strike a partnership with the Scottish Professional Football League, which gives it the rights to do live broadcasts in VR for soccer games out of that country. I also tried a single-seat car racing demo, however I'm not allowed to say what series it relates to due to ongoing negotiations between it and Virtually Live. But the idea here is the same, save for the fact you're in the driver's seat and can get live stats from official races, as opposed to being on a soccer pitch.

Virtually Live, which will be compatible with the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, is expected to launch on April 2nd. And even though the experience isn't perfect, it definitely has potential to be entertaining, especially if gets the support it needs from professional sporting leagues around the globe.

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