Zehnder + Teslasuit Part 3: Sports, Healthcare, and Entertainment
With the peak of the football season and the College National Championship game and Super Bowl upon us, my mind has been preoccupied with the idea of the average sports fan’s willingness to go to great lengths to have the visceral experience of a live sporting event. Tickets for the National Championship can cost as much as $5000 a seat. It sounds crazy. Perhaps it is crazy. But it shows that there is a high demand for the experience of “being there.”
Let’s use the Superdome as an example. Experiencing a game at the Superdome is an overwhelming assault on the senses. The dome is an ominous place to take in with the eyes, like a modern day version of the Colosseum in Rome. But unlike the Colosseum, the Superdome is alive. There’s the vast and open view when you are sitting in the stadium. Look up, down, and all around and there are people as far as the eye can see. There are digital displays with game data and advertisements. On the field there can be a number of things going on - the game itself, fireworks, cheerleaders, mascots. In the stands you have hoots, hollers, chants, foot stomping, hecklers. Over the loudspeakers the music plays at rock concert volume. You can feel the applause, the vibration, and all the anxiety and goosebumps that a game can bring. The key takeaway being that you are definitely not alone.
Watching a game on TV, you lose this perspective immediately. You are forced into a window that the broadcasters deem important to the viewing of the game. If a game is boring, you can’t turn your head to stare at the crazy person painted black and gold and dancing like a chicken. You can’t zone out to one of the animated advertisements, or enjoy watching the acrobatics of the cheerleaders while the team takes a time out. And you certainly aren’t getting involved in any chants or doing “the wave” with those sitting next to you.
Experience the Big Game in Virtual Reality
You don’t have to stretch your imagination any further than the chains of a first-down marker to see the opportunity for Virtual Reality and haptic technology to swoop in and offer the visceral experience of a live sporting event in the comfort of your own home.
Starting with the visual experience - it’s easy to see how a 360º view of a live sporting event can be experienced through something as common as a VR headset. We’ve seen this done for sporting events and concerts that have already happened. A 360º camera is placed in a seat in the crowd and the entire event is filmed so that later on, a person can put on a VR headset and virtually sit in a front row seat at the event. For the most part, video-streaming capabilities have kept this from happening for live events. Now with the introduction of 5G, delivery speeds for streaming video will now accommodate real-time, interactive visual experiences.
The problem with Virtual Reality experiences of sporting and concert events up to this point is that it remains largely an “out-of-body” experience. The visuals and headphone audio of the VR headset gives you the perspective and the directional audio you need, but it still leaves you with the feeling of being a ghost. I like to call it the “invisible man” effect. You feel like you are there but you still feel a disconnect. You have no way of feeling the proximity of the crowd, the rumble of the stadium, the thud of the bass from the speakers, the tingling sensation of seventy-thousand plus screaming their heads off, the air of the confetti cannons. If you can’t feel the flames from the pyrotechnics when the team takes the field, then you miss out, literally, on the heat of the moment.
Haptic Technology Brings the Goods
Zehnder is very much a Football loving agency - more of the SEC and NFL type than the Premiere Soccer type. We also are involved in a lot of Sports and Entertainment related media and PR. Naturally, one of the first ideas the Zehnder team had when developing use case scenarios for the Teslasuit had to do with bringing experiential marketing to the sports industry. The haptic technology of the Teslasuit allows for a moment to be felt through the skin of the suit. What better way to solve the “invisible man” effect of Virtual Reality than to allow the body to feel the physical touch sensation of being there.
Imagine that the game is about to start. You put on your Teslasuit and your VR headset. There are a few different seats to choose for your viewpoint - 50 yard line, behind the goal post, in one of the VIP boxes, or perhaps even right there on the field. In your suit you can feel a low rumble, the tingling of the sounds as the crowd gets louder. They play a song to drum up the excitement of the crowd and you feel the bass from the speakers surge through your body. It’s as exciting as it gets and the game hasn’t even begun.
Pyrotechnics explode as the teams take the field. You feel the heat of the flames in the Teslasuit while you also feel the pulse of the claps and foot stomping all around you. Directional sound within your headset is also adding to the experience - being able to hear fans within earshot, the whistle of a referee, the reverb of the announcement of who won the coin toss bouncing off the concrete of the dome. It’s an audio engineer’s dream come true to mix an experience like this for the sake of virtual reality, and with the way that you can fine-tune the Teslasuit as if it were an audio equalizer, it makes the creation of such an experience seem just as exciting as the experience itself.
Opportunities for Healthcare Sponsors
We love creating engaging interactive experiences at Zehnder, and having a person sitting at home watching a game while wearing Virtual Reality and Haptic Suit Technology would offer interesting opportunities for advertisers. It would be a waste to just give them a passive video to watch between commercial breaks. Why not offer a gamified advertisement? With VR and Haptic technology, a healthcare provider could offer a “60 second cardio couch break” where the viewer can play catch with the home team’s’ QB, or try to block extra points from the opposing team. Perhaps throwing a football isn’t your thing and you’d rather learn a “Just Dance” style cheer from your team’s cheerleading squad. The player can opt-in to have their vitals monitored during the mini game-advertisement. There can even be a connected competition or a tie-in to share the experience on social media. Getting people to engage in a fun moment while reminding them to exercise and take steps toward preventative healthcare sounds like a win-win for an industry that usually only gets to play in the field of TV and radio.
The opportunities for healthcare providers to partner with regional sports teams and gamify their advertisements are many, and the technology is ready to accommodate the experience. When those experiences are shared collectively or through social media in real time over 5G then there’s no limit to the reach of message in that experiential moment.
The Tech is Here. Time to Use It.
When ticket prices are in the thousands of dollars and fans are travelling across the country to root for their team, there is no doubt that the Sports and Entertainment industry is ripe for opportunity. It’s time for the Sports and Entertainment industry to partner with savvy marketing and technology companies who are looking to make the viewing experience more interactive. Those stuck at home will want to feel a part of the moment in any way they can. Some might find the nearest bar, others might like to dive into a virtual and connected environment that places them right at the center of the moment while never having to leave their living room.
This type of virtual home experience is only as far away as those willing to make it happen. The technology is here with 5G, Virtual Reality and innovations such as Teslasuit. It will come down to the willingness of the consumer to invest in VR and Haptic technology and the willingness of the industry to invest in new technology to make it happen.
We discovered Teslasuit at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and partnered with them soon after. We are happy to say we’ll be reporting from the show once again this year to bring you more news and ideas from Teslasuit and other companies on the forefront of technology. Stay tuned to Zehnder Insights for more on the latest from CES 2020.