Home Blog Page 56

Ghost Hunting in VR

0

There are two ways to go about VR horror experience, and the same goes for your avocation of paranormal – you love it or you hate it.

Either way, you have to admit that it is a completely different and more powerful horror experience from any you’ve had before. As your brain is exposed to visual and auditory stimulation, it has a way of compensating for the senses that aren’t receiving direct information from your VR device. Some users even report that during complete VR immersion their mind played tricks to the extent they could have sworn they’ve felt soft breeze or the scents from their virtual environments.

Human mind has been captivated for centuries by the idea of communicating with the dead, and ghost hunting today is fairly widespread. Many people engage paranormal, some are amateurs, some just fake, while some claim to be professionals. You might have seen some shows about this, found the content interesting, and even wanted to try it yourself. Now imagine ghost hunting in VR. It’s certainly much more convenient to visit all those dreaded, haunted locations from the safety of your room.

Well, ghost hunting enthusiast, brace yourself for the bright future ahead, because ghost hunting in VR is becoming a thing!

NextVR Takes Us Ghost Hunting In VR

NextVR is a company that has made a name for itself with broad VR sports coverage events but also concerts in VR. Additionally, they have created a longer VR content, Paranormal Evidence, in the form of well-known paranormal “reality show”.

The first episode aired on August 1st, and the producers (as always) claim to have captured many bizarre moments. These moments can be unsettling, entertaining, or both, depending on your personal preference. You will be observing paranormal investigators doing their work from third person perspective, and while the show’s title has evidence in it, there won’t be any captured in the film.

The video is shot with 360 camera technology, however you will have 180 degree field of view. While it may not be the most convincing VR ghost hunting experience, it is a pretty substantial benchmark for VR production, since the episodes lengths is a bit over 30 minutes.

Discovery Channel Recognizes That VR is the Future

Discovery Communications released the DiscoveryVR app and website a while back, and have been producing many of their shows in VR, like “Mythbusters” and “Survivorman”. Last year they plunged into the world of paranormal with the show Ghost Asylum. The six-minute videos will take you to eerie Preston Castle which used to be a strict reform school, where “patients” were subjected to various types of abuse.

Discovery realized that viewers of this genre are longing for a more immersive experience, therefore ghost hunting in VR with their Ghost Asylum seemed like a natural choice. Paranormal and VR seem to fit together perfectly, and the possibilities are endless.

VR Ghost Hunting in a Horror Game – Ghost Theory

The company Dreadlocks, based in Prague, started the fund raising campaign on kickstarter in 2016 in order to make an immersive VR ghost hunting experience. In Ghost Theory, you assume the role of Barbara, a paranormal investigator equipped with all the ‘real’ gadgets they use today. The developers decided to ditch zombies and any jump-scares we commonly see in the genre, as the gameplay mostly revolves around exploration and problem solving.

Barbara is clairvoyant so you will experience lots of flashbacks, which may provide the important clues for your investigation. You will be visiting many of the notorious haunted sites which are perfectly recreated in-game. You can pre-order Ghost Theory now, and help the Dreadlocks with the development!

VR Tourism – A rapidly-evolving state of reality…

0
vr tourism gear-vr

I suppose there is a good percentage of the population of this planet who have never really given a thought to Virtual Reality tourism.

Notice that I haven’t mentioned any of the millions of other planets in the universe on which life undoubtedly exists. We’re talking about this one. Earth.

Does the population of Earth know that VR tourism is just around the corner?

Does the population even know what VR tourism is?

Let’s correct that situation… right now!

VR devices have been around for quite a few years now. Whether they’re high-end devices like the Oculus Rift, or low-end devices like Google Cardboard, they present the viewer with a three-dimensional reality.

This offers far greater depth than just being able to look around in 360 degrees – since there are two different views, the eyes actually can see depth, just like in everyday life.

You can stand in the streets of Paris and look up at the Eiffel Tower.

You can take a boat ride down a river. Or walk along a beach.

You could… potentially… climb Mount Everest.

You could… just as potentially… walk on the moon!

Here’s Google Cardboard’s version of the Apollo 15 Moon Walk. The video can be viewed in 2D or 3D in a variety of ways, including using red-cyan Anaglyph glasses.

The potential is limitless. Let’s see where that potential could go…


Exploring destinations where the visuals are the main attraction

Not every tourist location is ‘interactive’ if you really think about it.

Let’s say that you were visiting the African desert. It would be an interesting experience.

But it would be mainly visual.

You would wander around looking at the scenery, getting a sense of the desert.

Seeing.

VR tourism to the desert

So why not see the same things in virtual reality?

Right in your own living room.

Some might argue that you can’t experience the desert environment in VR. But think about it.

Do you really want to experience scorching heat that draws the water right out of your body? In this case, the VR experience is actually more positive than the real one – it allows you to take in the visuals without actually suffering the desert heat.

The same may be applied to just about any experience that involves basically visual tourism.

The views in the Rocky Mountains, in the Swiss Alps, viewing the Northern Lights – these are all experiences that easily translate into Virtual Reality.

VR tourism swiss alps


Virtual Reality can be better than real life

In a nutshell, here’s why. Firstly, traveling to a location can be a great deal of trouble.

Secondly, the huge jet-liners we use to get there are the most consistently damaging things for the environment that even a human race that specializes in damage to the environment has ever invented!

Thirdly, the sights you are going to see may not be ‘optimal’ when you get there.

Let’s use the Northern Lights as an example that demonstrates what I’m talking about. If you wanted to see the Northern Lights – for real, not just in the picture below – let’s see what you’d have to do to get there…

VR Northern lights

The inconveniences of travel

To ‘see a sight’ you have to get to it, after all.

That encapsulates all the inconveniences of travel – of catching taxies, buses and airplanes, of lugging luggage and making connections. Of jet lag. Of finding hotels.

And all of this costs time and money – let’s not forget that.

Most of the population of the planet – even those who are fairly well-to-do – can only afford one or two vacations a year. There are many reasons for this.

VR tourism travel

Firstly, as I said…

Vacations cost money

Fairly large amounts of money, when you factor in plane tickets and hotel reservations, as well as the costs of dining in tourist zones designed to ‘milk’ tourists.

It’s bad enough for the lone traveler, but for a family…   This is not to say that one can’t ‘travel cheap’ if one puts one’s mind to it. Of course one can, but that has its own set of inconveniences, and even dangers.

Travel also costs time

After all, for most people, going on vacation means taking time off from work. It’s inevitable. This, more than anything, limits how much people can travel in a year.

VR saves time and money

Finally, when you get to a location, the sights may not be ‘optimal’

We were using going to see the Northern Lights as an example of ‘reality tourism’. So, you might travel to a hotel that specializes in viewing the Northern Lights. You might even carefully choose a time when you are most likely to see the Lights.

But the fact is, you may be disappointed.

You may not get to see the Northern Lights at all. Or even if you do, the display might not be as spectacular at the time when you happen to see them.

Compare this with the same experience on a high-end Virtual Reality device like the Oculus Rift, or HTC Vive. You’ll be seeing true-3D, 360 degree views of the best Northern Lights displays in years – a truly unforgettable experience.

You will be as familiar with the glories of the Northern Lights as people who have lived under them their whole lives.

There’s another limitation to ‘real world’ travel and tourism…

Travel only moves you to a single location

Let’s say you’re going to visit the Northern Lights.

You can’t simultaneously move to the Australian Outback, the Niagara Falls and the Swiss Alps.

You’re going to see the Northern Lights, and that’s what you’re going to see. You’re limited by time and space and the laws of physics – the laws of the universe itself. You can’t step past the laws of the universe.

Or can you?

You can – and that’s exactly where Virtual Reality comes in.

VR space


Finally, in Virtual Reality, the world is within reach in your own home

Think of it – experiencing the wonders of the world in glorious 3D, able to move around and look around – all in the comfort of your own home.

Without traveling, without the inconvenience of spending time and money on simply altering your physical location.

Right there in your living room.

You don a VR headset, and instantly – instantly – you’re viewing the northern lights. You watch the greatest views of the Northern Lights that this world has to offer.

And then, again instantly, you are transported to France. Or Australia. Or Switzerland. Or, as below, are face to face with wild elephants in Africa…

Time and space no longer command you.

The limitations of money no longer command you.

You can be anywhere on the planet that you please, the moment that it pleases you to do so.

This is the future of tourism in Virtual Reality.


Let’s explore the potential of tourism in Virtual Reality

Yes, you could visit Notre Dame in France in reality. But could you actually climb the spire?

This sort of ‘extreme tourism’ could soon be possible, as this 360 degree video below proves.

Don’t forget to look around at the amazing view of Paris, a view that few people in the world will ever be in a position to see in real life…

Too extreme for you?

Why not just wander around the interior of Notre Dame in a more relaxed manner…

And here’s a beautiful VR visit to an aquarium in Barcelona…

Or you could walk around a Bangkok market at night, in Virtual Reality…

That too placid for you?

Then leap from an aircraft to parachute to the ground…


What else is possible in VR Tourism?

A great deal more, it turns out.

Museums in VR

Think of having all the museums of the world in VR!

Museums should already be doing this, in the interests of the human race, but ethics always lags behind technology.

After all, if all the museums of the world were in VR, who would ever pay to look into them?

Actually, that’s a very short-sighted view

In reality, museums could charge the normal price on tickets for a ‘VR Ticket’ – and get ten times the visitors – and earnings – that they do at present!

Just imagine it – you buy an online VR ticket to a museum, and a floor plan of the museum comes up. When you focus on a wing of the museum, an audio guide tells you what to expect on that floor.

If you select a floor, you are transported to a VR experience of that floor, where you can walk along, viewing the exhibits, stop at an exhibit, look at it for as long as you wish, and then move on.

When you’ve had enough of one wing of the museum, you can move along to another area – in Virtual Reality.

This video is very simple, of course, but it gives you some idea of how this would work…

Prefer cars instead?

Take a look at this car museum…

Even this concept could be improved

Imagine ALL the museums of the world linked to a single site, from which you can access them all in VR. All the knowledge of the world in a single place, for ANYONE in the world to explore.

Think how this could push forward the horizons of the human race.


So how much of this is reality – or even virtual reality?

Companies like Google are very much at the forefront of the latest in Virtual Reality Tourism.

Google Expeditions

Google is pushing it’s Daydream project forward, but more than a million children around the world have used Expeditions to visit places like Machu Pichu – as well as to swim in the sea alongside sharks (where else would children be able to do something like that?), as well as go on space trips or on trips to museums.

All from the security and safety of their own classrooms.

We very much recommend that schools and teachers use the Expeditions app, and open a world – and even a universe – to the young minds in their care, using VR technology that surpasses boundaries in a way that has never been possible to humanity before.

Here’s a short introduction to how Google Expeditions works.

Here’s the Google Expeditions Site. Google is still pushing forward the Expeditions project, so the experience can only grow.

Rapid VR

Rapid VR seem to be a mix of professional filmmakers and dedicated VR enthusiasts.

They’re good, but I can’t quite make out what their focus is yet – whether on VR Tourism for the common man, or VR movies for companies, resorts, or even museums. That is to say, places who want to give people a ‘VR preview’ that will encourage people to visit in real life. The lack of extensive content probably means they’re aiming at the latter.

They’re included here because they have some nice content. Check out this intro video…

And this rather interesting VR trip to Taronga zoo…

Google Photos

Another Google product. The app can let people view panoramas in 3D. That’s hardly ‘virtual reality’, of course, but it’s a step in that direction. Of course, Google Maps’ street views allow you to do virtually the same thing. There are a lot of programs out there that allow you to ‘stitch together’ photographs taken in different directions into 360 degree panorama views.

However Google Photos is special in that the app actually allows you to view pictures taken with the Cardboard Camera in true 3D with a 360 degree field of vision. That’s not VR, but for the average person, it’s a convenient, and very personal substitute.

After all, you can take and share pictures of your family, or pictures taken while on holiday – in a 360 degree view and in as high a 3D resolution as your smartphone can support.

Other Organizations developing VR Tourism

I’ve heard of GeoVegas and 3rdPlanet as being connected to VR Tourism experimentation right now. I couldn’t find any content by GeoVegas, but 3rdPlanet had some beautiful videos.

Visualize is another company moving into VR

They’re very commercial, yet a growing, nascent company has to be so. Yet they do some excellent work.

Look at the video below – available in 360 degree 2D, VR and Anaglyph – and stand on a rocky coast where penguins nest and play around you…


Here are other developments in the field of Virtual Tourism…

VR Teleporter Booths

Look at these – VR Teleporter Booths that not give you a visual VR experience, but also add 4D effects, such as mist, spray, moving ground, and rain!

These booths were showcased by Marriot, and designed by Relevent, and are the first step to a new kind of VR tourism – 4D.

Marriott-Hotels-Oculus-Rift-VR-Teleporter

So what is 4D?

4D is a method of making the experience of VR more immersive. In conventional VR, you have 3D glasses that give you a 360 degree field of view.

In the case of 4D, other sensory cues are brought into play. If you’re standing in a grassland, and a wind is moving the grass, then vents will blow air towards you in the direction from which the wind is blowing. If you are standing in a rain-storm, sprinklers with spray you with water!

The video below will explain to you exactly how 4D can work in its ultimate avatar – the video is gaming-oriented, but after you watch it, I will explain how 4D can be applied to VR Tourism.

You’ve seen in the video how 4D VR can become a complete sensory experience.

Of course that was VR Gaming at its finest and most realistic, but the same principle can be applied to Tourism.

How could 4D VR be applied to Virtual Tourism?

Let’s consider that point. Let’s say we wanted to show the Pyramid of Giza in 4D.

Of course, as is obvious in the video, 4D cannot be achieved in your living room.

But let’s say there’s a ‘Virtual Tourism Center’ near you. A center like the ‘Void’ you’ve already seen in the video. Such a major commercial VR institution could include 4D recreations of the interior of the Pyramid of Giza, which a paying customer could then explore.

VR tourist pyramid

These recreations could be ‘time-dated’, so that a person could take on the role of the first discoverers of the pyramids.

After all, what are the pyramids today?

Horrible tourist traps, with all the incredible treasures of the Pharaoh looted long ago.

A VR Tourist could instead explore the Pyramids – not as they are now – but instead as they were when they were full of the treasures of the Pharaoh!

Another section of the Pyramid simulation could include ‘climbing the Pyramid’ – which is illegal in Egypt today, but which is not illegal in VR!

And VR Tourists, having climbed the Great Pyramid, could stand atop it, and look out over the desert!

But even that is only the beginning…


Space Exploration

Yes, VR can be applied to space.

VR can allow one to explore the planets of this system, fly to other world, stand under the acid rains and metal snows of Venus (Did you even know that it snows metal on Venus?).

VR explorers can walk on the moon… or on Mars.

Or orbit the world, or travel into space.

Join me on a short visit into Orbit aboard the International Space Station…

What would it be like walking on Mars?

This video from a shot from the Curiosity Rover should give you some idea of what it will be like. Step with me, onto the world Mars…

Of course, that’s only a still panorama without an audio feed – certainly not 4D.

But you begin to get the idea. Even one of those 4D booths we discussed a little earlier would bring this to stunning, awe-inspiring life, as you watched one of the terrifying Martian dust-storms rise on the horizon.

Let’s face it.

That’s not an experience the great majority of us will achieve in our lifetimes.


Entire Virtual Worlds!

Even more fascinating are entire virtual worlds created in 3D. These work something like 3D games – one of the most interesting of these that has just been developed is Mars 2030.

Go on and explore the site. It’s amazing.

Mars 2030 is a VR game that actually allows you to explore 40 square kilometers of Mars.

It allows you to be one of the first explorers of another planet.

The views are stunningly accurate – and have been created from the actual data brought in by our robot explorers of the red planet!

But see for yourself…

Here’s another in-simulation video of Mars 2030…


So, now for the important question…

What can’t Virtual Reality deliver?

For the moment, you can’t possibly replicate some experiences in ordinary VR.

Mind you, these things are possible in 4D. But not in your living room.

So, a VR Tourist can’t bathe under a waterfall, for example. That’s a very tactile experience. You can’t push your way through a jungle. That’s not really possible in ‘living room’ virtual reality.

You can’t walk around Paris at will, taking any street you want, and interacting with the people you meet there. You can’t taste the cuisine.

All these things are light years ahead, and may never  be a reality.

So what COULD be a reality sometime soon?

Well, a vast ‘VR Tourist Site’ that includes most major destinations in the world – a site like Google Expeditions – could be, and is a reality today.

Another thing that’s already possible is ‘guided tours of cities’, where a guide takes you around the city, and tells you about the different monuments, and you can look around as you please.

Look at this video for an idea of how this would feel…

You see that it’s quite a good experience – you look around, there’s a guide talking, it’s quite wonderful. Live streams would be even better. I’m quite sure we’ll see both soon.

Yes, while VR Tourism in the present is looking good… the future looks even better! We truly live in an age of expanding horizons – a good time in which to be alive!

Boxing in VR: Workouts, Experiences, Live Broadcasts and More

0
VR Boxing Live Broadcast Stream
The referee here is the only man who has a better view than a VR stream

With Virtual Reality having a very ‘real’ impact on our lives, the technology is changing the way we live… or are going to live in the foreseeable future. One of the surest demonstrations of this is a sport like boxing.

For centuries – yes, centuries – boxing has been the ultimate ‘real life’ event. I mean, you get into a ring, you hit the other guy, he hits you back. He hurts you, you hurt him, you win the bout and walk away… or you hope to do so.

Life doesn’t get much more real than that.

I heard one boxer say once that the time he spent in the ring was the time he felt most alive, with the adrenaline rush, with all his senses reaching out to ‘feel’ his opponent, with his instincts going feral with the effort to reach his opponent.

What place has Virtual Reality in all that?

Plenty, it turns out. With live streaming of boxing matches, with shadow boxing against virtual opponents. But is live streaming realistic? And are the virtual opponents any good… especially against a boxer trained in real life?

I’ll give you all the answers to those questions… right now.

Live Boxing Events in VR

These are the most developed of all the boxing-related advances. While VR live boxing events are still in their infancy – meaning that I see them developing in ways perhaps not even imagined yet! – they’ve already become quite sophisticated.

Most of the Virtual Reality streaming of live boxing events today has been pioneered by NextVR. And most of these streams include live commentary, multiple possible views generated by multiple VR cameras, and advanced computer graphics programmed directly into the 3D VR feed!

And yet – as I said – the tech is still in its infancy! Things are only going to get more sophisticated, until I visualize the day when no one would dream of watching a live boxing event other than through VR.

VR Boxing
At least one guy in this photo wishes this was Virtual Reality!

What makes VR streaming of live events better?

To understand that, you would

need to watch a live boxing match streamed through VR. But, in short, you feel that you are ‘there’ in a way you just cannot while watching a conventional match feed. It feels like you’re right in the ring – or at the corner.

You can gauge distances, see expressions, even almost feel the impact of a punch as one boxer strikes another…

What multiple cameras mean for a VR experience

When each camera streams – and broadcasts – independently, this means that by shifting between cameras you can almost feel as if you are walking around the boxers as they fight – almost as if you occupied the position of the referee in the ring.

That’s not just ‘ring-side’ – that’s a first-hand experience of the fight that you’d be hard put to get elsewhere. That you can’t get elsewhere.

VR Boxing Live Broadcast Stream
The referee here is the only man who has a better view than a VR stream

The future! – A true ‘walk-around’ experience?

But actually, the multiple cameras have even more potential than they show at present. At present, viewers can switch between cameras.

But I visualize a day when the feeds from the multiple cameras are merged into a single seamless VR feed that allows a person to actually ‘walk’ around the ring by manipulating a control. This will allow him to approach the fighters, or ‘move back’, or to sidestep to get a better view.

As well as being able to shift viewpoints at will. I see this advancement being implemented very quickly, perhaps as an alternate option to the multiple viewpoints.

That’s the point where VR should more or less replace conventional viewing of intense, compact sports events like boxing matches for all true enthusiasts.

The technology to seamlessly integrate 360-degree views from multiple feeds already exists

Yes it does – in conventional baseball broadcasting! Look at this video.

See how the views ‘freeze and rotate’. It seems to be CGI magic – only it isn’t.

What you’re seeing is the feed from about a dozen high-end cameras, seamlessly integrated into one pattern.

A pattern that then gives you a basic ‘walk-around view’.

Intel is pioneering applying similar technologies to sports VR

Intel is proving to be a driving force behind future technologies that could be used in VR sports broadcasts, and have taken several steps recently that could well make them major players in VR sports a couple of years from now.

The power behind the VR sport broadcasting of tomorrow

Intel has recently purchased Voke, a company that develops cutting edge VR camera technology. It has also bought Replay Technology, a company that has pioneered the method of merging VR streams from different cameras into one seamless 360-degree VR sports experience!

When the technologies from these two companies are merged, VR sports viewers will be able to move forwards and backwards into the action, move around a boxing ring or baseball arena with the freedom of the actual sportsmen, stand within four feet of a boxer, dodging around him as he delivers that final, massive knockout blow.

This technology may take a couple of years to become mainstream. But the fact is that… as of this very moment, it already exists.

It is becoming mainstream. It is inevitable!

The VR streams available today are a shadow of things to come even two years from now. The entire face of sports broadcasting is about to change into a deeply immersive experience that puts viewers and fans feet away from the action!

And not only will viewers be able to ‘get into the experience’, but they will be able to edit the feed, going back and adding their favorite parts to a personal feed, and will be able to send that personal feed to friends.

Their friends will have the ability to move around the chosen shots as they please!

Oops… This is the wrong VR program. Where’s my boxing simulation?

Ah… there it is…

The future looks bright… so what’s missing?

Oddly enough, compatibility with the best VR devices. That’s what’s missing!

While the present broadcasting technology is state of the art, and going to be virtually perfected in the next two years, on the user end, what that technology is most compatible with is GearVR – a simplistic device that is basically run by a Samsung smartphone.

Compared to dedicated VR viewing technology, that is limited in the extreme. Yet most sports feeds are incompatible with high-end viewing devices that can actually deliver the ultimate VR experience.

HTC Vive

This is shortsightedness that is holding the entire VR sports industry back

Sure, google cardboard and other smartphone ‘VR’ apps are fine to play around with. But they’re hardly the hardware for the ultimate VR streaming experience.

NextVR has done an excellent job pioneering VR sports viewing, but if they can’t adapt, let them move aside and make way for those who can actually move the VR sports industry into the future.

If NextVR can’t promise compatibility between their feeds and most of the VR devices out there in the near future, let them step aside for a company that can.

Not that I’m complaining about smartphone-VR devices

They bring VR within reach of everyone. But, let’s face it, while they represent the greatest number of viewers (no mystery there as to why sports broadcasts are targeting them) – they represent the lowest standard of VR technology.

The highest standards come with dedicated VR gear attached to the power of a PC.

Sure, some people might find that inconvenient. On the other hand, the advantages in positional tracking and such (with the computer tracking when you sit down, stand up, and turn your head) are superlative.

It’s all about Power

Isn’t it always?

But I’m talking about hardware here.

Did you know that VR feeds today are captured on Red EPIC Dragon VR camera technology? That’s absolutely high-end.

The resolutions of the transmitting cameras are far beyond smartphone screens. Heck, smartphone displays themselves show a maximum pixel resolution that is… quite frankly… too low.

It’s cash vs capability

It make sense for VR that aims at the public to target the smartphones that everyone uses. But consider what Oculus is aiming at. They’re trying to develop 16k resolutions that will mimic the very resolutions of the human eye. Admittedly, they’re focusing that 16k in a view-field that only spans a 100 degrees. But it’s a beginning.

Why the small field of view?

That brings us to another limitation – bandwidth.

NextVR themselves stream in a 180-degree field, not a 360-degree field. That’s to reduce bandwidth. It’s also to ensure that the present visual delivery capability of the VR headset delivers the best possible visual experience. After all, if you double the field of vision, the present pixel-count of your visual device is divided by half – halving the quality.

The best of both worlds

For now, there’s no cause for concern. NextVR is actually doing a brilliant job with a nascent technology. So long as they don’t run a monopoly, or so long as they fund advances to the technology, things are bound to improve.

In a few boxing matches I saw, the VR quality was actually pretty reasonable.

By restricting the field of view to 180-degrees, NextVR effectively doubled the deliverable quality.

When you take that alongside the fact that the usual TV feed is actually available inside the VR broadcast, allowing you to see slow-motion shots and other things of the sort, it’s actually a grand experience.

Strategically positioned cameras make VR boxing broadcasts a memorable experience…

Even as the tech is today, you feel the power of each blow

You feel the drive to victory and the pain.

You feel each round, and hear the roar of the crowd. If you miss a shot, the TV feed is right there inside the VR broadcast, with a slow motion replay.

The future has arrived

It’s just… not perfect yet!

But it will be. And that might well be within the next two years!

But it’s not all about the viewers – what about the boxers?

What do boxers get out of Virtual Reality?

Well, it’s all very much in the nascent stage at the moment, but VR might well become one of the ultimate training aids for boxers.

The price boxers pay – a shortened life-span

Hey, no one likes to talk about it. But I pull no punches. Boxers ‘pay’ to entertain us. With a shortened life-span. Repeated concussions and being beaten to a pulp at regular intervals will do that to you.

VR can reduce the damage boxers take

Now hold on… I’m NOT talking about matches in VR. At least, not yet. I’m talking about training in VR.

See, a boxer trains for the ring, and he has to train to be able to take blows and keep on coming – this means that real-life sparring is absolutely necessary.

But what if he could put in lots of extra, painless training.

That’s where VR technology comes in

A boxer could go up against a virtual opponent in a boxing simulation for hours every day, continuously honing the speed of his reflexes, making his jabs faster, his parries more effective. Sure, his opponent has limited mental capability, being an Artificial Intelligence – but the Virtual Opponent also has the potentially lightning-fast reflexes and reactions of a true machine.

And you could have both artificial and real opponents

What about two boxers going up against each other in VR?

They’d bring human cunning and intelligence to the bouts – and be able to put in hours of ‘extra training’ that didn’t result in physical blows and damage.

This is what I envision boxers’ training like a few years into the future

The boxer heads out to the gym.

  • After his regular training, bag practice and such, he spends a good amount of time sparring with a real partner.
  • Before he’s fully tired, he dons a Virtual Reality headset, and goes all out against a lightning-fast computer opponent in VR. The opponent is better than he is, in many ways. The Virtual Opponent’s reactions are faster, his jabs almost unstoppable. But humans are adaptive. Training against this inhuman machine every day, the boxer improves until he can actually fight the inhuman machine on equal terms.
  • After his bout with the machine, the boxer goes up against a number of other human partners for some relaxed sparring in Virtual Reality. This allows them to work on tactics without taking blows and without getting hurt – which in turn allows them to work on tactics longer.

This is the sort of session that could take boxing beyond what it is today, pitting boxers against virtual opponents that are, in effect, machine-fast, so that the boxers themselves become brilliantly fast at attack and defense.

Aye, it’s the first wave of the future.

But how much of this actually exists today?

Well, there’s the VR boxing game called Thrill of the Fight.

This video will give you an accurate idea of what playing the game is like for the average Joe…

As with most technologies today, it is limited to a segment of hardware – in this case HTC Vive. But it is expected to migrate to other hardware like the Oculus Rift soon.

For the moment, it is made for HTC Vive because it requires tracking controllers for the hands.

After you set up your character, you are transported to a Boxing Gym, where you face perhaps the ugliest opponent in boxing history.

Actually, there are a whole set of opponents, but they’re all equally ugly. It’s a positive pleasure to belt them one. I’m not exaggerating – one of the possible opponents is an undead zombie.

The problem is they hit back. Hard.

At least if you’re a guy – or girl – with average fighting capability. They duck, they parry almost all your blows (only clever combinations have a chance), they respond with lightning fast jabs.

It’s great practice, and really hones your reflexes and footwork.

It’s also great exercise, and will have you ‘on the ropes’ – if you’re out of shape – in ten minutes flat. But it’s so much fun that you’ll keep going, keep pushing it. It’s not like running on a treadmill – this is heart-pounding excitement.

It is, in fact, Virtual Reality.

But does Thrill of the Fight provide challenges for the professional boxer?

Unfortunately… no. Here’s a video of a pro taking on the virtual opponent – er, while horsing around doing other stuff…

You see that the computer opponent just doesn’t cut it against pros.

The boxer downs ‘him’ multiple times, running rings around him, beating him down again and again – at one point the system even crashed because it just couldn’t take all the stuff the pro was throwing at it.

As I said, the technology is only starting out.

The problem is the technology is not centered on professionals

Thrill of the Fight is a great piece of software, but it’s centered on providing a challenge to the average gamer. It’s not centered on the reflexes and training of a boxer at all.

A special training software would need to be developed centered on the professional – or the ‘difficulty levels’ of the AI behind the Thrill of the Fight opponents would have to be seriously upgraded.

But the technology itself certainly has potential. The HTC Vive demonstrates that practical Virtual Reality training – or even VR combat against a live opponent in Virtual Reality – is possible.

Of course, both ‘players’ would have to be in different rooms, or they might actually hit each other for real – and those VR headsets aren’t expendable.

Look, Thrill of the Fight, as a game, is pathetic. It has horrible graphics – in an age where virtually every game has graphics that are almost true-to-life. It has horrible A.I.

Check out this Star Trek simulation for an idea of what VR graphics can be like…

I visualize VR boxing simulations where the A.I. can mimic the very fighting styles of boxing legends.

Who are this line-up of dirt-ugly characters in the game?

I want to take on Muhammad Ali.

So give me Muhammad Ali!!!

I want to match him at ‘Floating like a Butterfly’ and ‘Stinging like a Bee’. I want to put the great man down… hard.

Fantasy?

No.

That’s the Future of Boxing in Virtual Reality!