Virtual Reality Will Take You There

In this series, professionals predict the ideas and trends that will shape 2016. Read the posts here, then write your own (use #BigIdeas2016 in your piece).

How would you like to have the very best seat in the house, wherever your “house” may be…?

…courtside at the NBA Finals?

…the Academy Awards next to George and Amal?

…the Ferrari Bugatti?

…backstage at the next Presidential debate?

…in the operating room as the finest surgeon in Peru demonstrates a new procedure?

…high atop an elephant on safari in Africa?

…next to Kim and Kanye at Paris Fashion Week?

No. I’m not talking about the seat in front of your TV, computer, or mobile phone. I’m talking about virtually being “there” — Virtual Reality (VR) — which is what I predict will be the biggest game changer in sports, entertainment, and live events (including shopping, travel, concerts, and festivals) in 2016 and far beyond.

Ever since Scotty asked Captain Kirk to “beam him up,” the idea of being there without going there has always been a seductive promise of technology. The glimpse of VR that appeared in 2015 will become a cascade in 2016 as this promise evolves into a more cost-efficient and time-efficient process that will catapult it into almost every facet of our personal and business lives.

Instantly you are immersed and navigating in a 360-degree universe in real time.

Let’s take the one example that most excites me — live streaming VR. In its simplest form, it uses a technology that everyone is addicted to: your mobile smartphone. No new set top box is necessary. The media is streamed over the Internet, Wi-Fi, or 4G into your mobile phone and is viewed through a set of glasses ranging from a cost of 10 cents to $100. The sound comes through the speaker system on the phone itself or through stereo earbuds.

Instantly you are immersed and navigating in a 360-degree universe in real time. So a director or producer isn’t determining what you’re looking at, how you’re looking at it, or when you’re looking at it. You’re acting as if you were virtually there. Rather than being a mere passenger, the result is a participatory experience with a far deeper level of emotional engagement than any other curated event can deliver. This experience is metabolized in a richer, more resonant, memorable and visceral way.

Recently, the NBA and Turner Sports partnered to launch professional basketball into the VR space. The content of the game was streamed live through an app created by NextVR, a company in which I am an investor, and serve as Chairman of the Strategic Advisory Board. Fans experiencing the NBA game were there without being there. They were up close for the championship ring ceremony in which my Golden State Warriors were all awarded their championship rings, and then watched the NBA opening night game against New Orleans, live, in real time! Folks experienced NextVR again on November 22, as we streamed the best seat in the house from The American Music Awards.These are just two examples of how VR is changing the creator and user experience. This is not the end of this innovation. It’s not even the end the beginning. It’s only the beginning of the beginning. And the changes and improvements will come at lightning speed.

I look forward to seeing you either virtually or personally in 2016. Happy New Year!