By: Zach Seybert, @zlseybert
The University of Miami has been involved in a renaissance of sorts in the past couple of months, both on and off the football field. The athletic department announced a cutting edge partnership with EON Sports VR to create a state-of-the-art virtual reality (VR) channel, Canes VR, for the Hurricanes’ loyal and passionate alumni and fans.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Assistant Director of Digital Strategy, Tim Brogdon, about the announcement of this virtual reality movement, the offerings of the department and what the future holds for collegiate athletic departments in terms of the technological advancements.
Although announced recently, Miami had been in contact with EON Sports VR since late March.
“It has taken a long time and it is all about ensuring that every single thing is ready to go before we roll it [Canes VR] out. We need to make sure from a retail, video and content perspective that everything is built out. It also takes time for the company to build the application,” said Brogdon.
This shift towards VR opportunities in athletics, professional and college alike, has made waves in the industry as of late. From athletic departments utilizing VR headsets in recruiting efforts to fans being able to experience a marquee game from a different perspective, it seems that the shift is taking the sports world by storm.
Although the use of VR has been increasing as of late, this partnership is among the first offerings, nationally, in intercollegiate athletics to provide fans with an all-access virtual reality channel. I asked Brogdon where the idea for Miami’s involvement came from.
“We have a rare opportunity to offer this to our fan base and our brand is a national one, so for us to be able to give cool, exclusive, insider access to our fans, this is really cool for us. We know that there is only so much we can do to try and give our fans a first person perspective, but this is probably going to be the closest we’re going to get for a while.”
This experience is brought to users through an app on fans’ smartphones that once opened, immerses the user in a variety of different VR experiences.
“We’re trying to leave no stone unturned. Building the content takes a little time, but the sky is the limit. We’ve found that recruits and fans want to see the same thing; a practice, walking through the ‘Hurricane Walk,’ etc. These are really cool opportunities that not a lot of people get to experience, but we want to bring them to fans through this partnership.”
These experiences are accessible through the aforementioned app and a $30 Miami-branded headset, which is discounted $10 for season ticket holders. The headset looks like the mascot, Sebastian the Ibis. Once purchased, you will get an access code that unlocks the content.
In addition to the announcements of the VR partnership, Miami has also announced multi-million-dollar facility upgrades, including an indoor football facility. With the use of VR, these facilities will be able to be toured by interested fans, which, according to Brogdon, can also be used as a sales tactic.
This announcement is very exciting for fans of both the technology and sports industries, especially the intersection of both. Additionally, Hurricane fans should be excited about the access to this technology and the opportunity to be at the forefront of this innovation. Brogdon says Miami is looking at the second week of October to start mailing headsets and a preorder phase is currently under way. Trying to get these headsets to market is a new challenge, as it is a pretty new marketplace. Due to this, the goal of the department is to let the people know what the product is, what it can do and what the content is.
With all the exciting innovations in the sports industry, and that happening down in Coral Gables, FL, the intersection of sports and technology continues to grow.
For the announcement from Miami, check out the release here.