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Warriors See the Future of Fan Engagement in VR

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As Golden State Warriors fans start imagining another championship for the team, they can take a moment to picture courtside seats too. While the NBA champs are focused on the finals, the team’s front office has been busy developing immersive experiences for fans that put them right in the action.

The Warriors are committed to experimenting ways that merge physical and digital to create immersive experiences for fans. Earlier in the season the home opener, ring ceremony and raising of the banner became the first live streamed VR sporting event, ever. “When we won the championship last year we thought it would be an amazing opportunity to explore,” said Kenny Lauer, VP of Marketing and Digital for the Warriors at a recent The VR AR Association meetup in San Francisco.

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“We are becoming an entertainment company that includes basketball,” said Lauer, “the business we are in is the experience creation business.” In this business, physical and digital merge to create a new immersive experience for fans.

Today just under 20,000 people can go to a home game at Oracle arena, but with plans for the new arena in San Francisco, fans around the world will get a courtside seat and more, with the use of VR.

“We are always trying to be more immersive,” said Lauer. The first experiment was shot from a front row seat with a 180 degree camera. “There’s no producer, it’s just you being there.” said Lauer. Audio was pulled in from the radio telecast, “It was not ideal but an incredible learning to get it off the ground,” said Lauer. Later they tried a camera that brought in the basket and other elements, “which was cool,” said Lauer.

In the future there will be unique sound experiences and different angles for the viewer to choose. “Sound is so critical to an experience” said Lauer “In basketball you don’t hear the sounds of the court once you’re about 4 rows back. You don’t hear the squeaking of the shoes the banter of the players or the net. So the experience is very different, some say it’s not as great, but you get use to that.”  They’re testing mic placement around the arena which means in some ways a virtual seat may be better than an actual one.

“The opportunity of VR is to take that sound and deliver not only the view from the court but the sounds of the court. To hear the banter between the players, or the thing the ref really says, if you can bring that to VR it will enhance the experience. And that will change depending on where you’re sitting in the arena.”

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In the future, live images could be augmented with information about the game and players Lauer said. As technology gets more sophisticated it will know more about you and what you find interesting. Lauer also says that they are experimenting with ways to make the experience less isolating,  where you can have a more social VR experience and can communicate with fans in the arena..

“There is a lot of other storytelling opportunities and components” said Lauer, “We’re looking to see what works while planning what will be rolled out.”

Warrior’s co-owner, Peter Guber invested in NextVR in May 2015.

About the Scout

Sukhjit Ghag

Sukhjit has worked as a broadcast and digital storyteller. She cares about how technology helps us connect with each other.

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