Today, July 19, 2016, the converge newsroom for sports journalism took a short field trip to learn about virtual reality and how it is being used in IU Athletics.
At 12:27 a bus arrived to pick up the many sports journalism students and transported them all way across campus to the softball and baseball fields. There to welcome them after their ten minute walk from the bus stop was director of new technology at Indiana University, Patrick Dhaene.
As Dhaene led a group of around 15 chattering students into a small room right above the Andy Mohr softball field, their curiosity only grew as they noticed the oddly shaped cameras on a table pushed to the side. One apparatus had six GoPro cameras packed together in an odd hexagon shape, another had two cameras with one hundred and eighty degree lenses back to back, and the final one looked like a television remote with two lenses sticking out of the flat sides. Patrick went on to explain that this equipment is very new but is still being developed.
“We’ve been implementing this equipment for about a year… Our technology is constantly changing,” Dhaene said as he explained the history of the equipment. “We actually just used the six cameras to make a five minute documentary and it took us five months to piece together.”
Even though the equipment is new and it takes time to stitch the feeds together, it still didn’t fail to surprise and captivate the students. Student Eugene Davis felt so lost in the virtual reality that he yelled, “Woah! That is Terrifying!” while participating in a “death defying” flight experience.
“It made you feel like you were thousands of feet in the air,” Davis said, recalling his non-existent but realistic flight.
Another student got to experience the exhilaration of a home IU basketball game.
“It was weird,” said Phillip Steinmetz, “it felt like you were right there and you could touch everything.”
On top of creating cool videos virtual reality also has some practical uses. Specifically in sports, virtual reality can be used to help athletes train by showing them a more hands-on video of their practices. It can also be used to transport fans from the worst seats in the house to the front row. In real life there are a limited amount of people who get front row seats, and those seats are very expensive. By using virtual reality, more fans will get to experience the front row.
The equipment used to produce these videos is very expensive and IU was one of the first lucky universities to create such an exclusive experience. In fact, they were the first college ever to do a live virtual reality broadcast.
When asked why all of this was possible assistant athletic director Andrew Rosner didn't hesitate.
“Mark Cuban is the reason,” stated Rosner, “and his five million dollar donation.”
Mark Cuban is an Indiana University alumni, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a recurring star on the TV show “Shark Tank”. Now, his name decorates the side of the new Mark Cuban Center for Sports Media and Technology, which is dedicated to the research and development of virtual reality.
“[Mark Cuban] is unique and saw this opportunity to train students [on virtual reality] at IU,” said Rosner, explaining that virtual reality is something that should be recognized as a future job. “What you are learning right now you won’t use in work today. It’s something you will use in 5, 10, or even 20 years time.”
Because of HSJI many hopeful sports journalists had the opportunity to learn about the future of technology in sports; an experience you can’t find at just any college.
“It’s really cool!” said student Gretel Payne. “You would never think you would able to do this!”
by Madison Smalstig
photos and video by Megan Crass