MLB wants to change the way you enjoy America’s favorite pastime with an all-in-one VR experience.
In what just may be the biggest marriage between virtual reality and a professional sports franchise to date, Major League Baseball has officially lifted the curtain on its new immersive viewing experience, At Bat VR.
Developed by the MLB’s gaming and VR team at MLB Advanced Media, the intuitive virtual reality experience gives owners of any Daydream-ready smartphone the chance to view live games, playback highlights, check the scores of past, current and future games, listen to live play-by-play radio broadcasts, check current team standings and a whole lot more. I had a chance to visit the MLB office in New York and preview the engaging new experience myself.
Upon entering one of the MLB preview rooms, a member of At Bat, the developers behind the official baseball live streaming mobile app, began preparing a Daydream headset for me to use while simultaneously inquiring about my favorite baseball team. I explained how I was of course a Yankees fan, the same as any other sane New Yorker (come at me Met fans), we chatted a bit more and after another minute or two of tinkering on their end I eagerly grabbed the controller and put on the headset. Immediately after entering the experience I looked down at my Daydream controller to find the slightly transparent wand was now layered with a Yankee theme. Apparently each major league team has their own unique look that users can apply to their controller. And just like that, they had me.
Using my new pimped out controller I navigated my way through the app’s simple, yet intuitive interface to access a pleasant amount of baseball content both live and prerecorded. Accessing the “Video” panel opened up a catalogue of both standard and 360-degree video content ranging from past game highlights to in-depth tours of various team stadiums. The “Games” panel is where the real action resides, offering a variety of options for enjoying full live games. Users can listen to radio broadcasts in both English and Spanish or view live footage on a large screen surrounded by real-time Statcast data such as pitch velocity/angle, player heat maps and even a virtual strike zone box that keeps track of each pitch and bat with an impressive lack of delay. Finally there’s the “Standings” tab which houses team standings, player data and various other records from the current season.
The result is a virtual reality application I could genuinely see myself using on a regular basis. A plethora of features and a strikingly clean interface come together to deliver an experience that’s as entertaining and informative as it is comfortable.
MLB At Bat VR will be available on Daydream-compatible phones for free June 1st. There is a catch however: The free version of the package will only allow access to standard features such as stats and game scores. Premium At Bat members receive extended features like the game highlights and 360 video catalogue for $3 per month, while MLB TV premium members receive full access, including an in-VR live stream of every game, for $25. If you’re already subscribed to one of these packages, syncing it to the VR experience is simply a matter of downloading the app and filling in your info.
With an exciting amount of updates and support planned for future release, it’ll be interesting to see how this all-in-one virtual reality experience continues to evolve over the coming months after release.