January 24, 2022

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NBA games in virtual reality have potential. Here’s what watching one is like

2 min read

Jabari Young wearing the Oculus Quest 2 device.

Source: Jabari Young

Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka popped up from the team bench, and before I knew it, he was blocking my view. Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle was close enough for me to see his Cole Haan shoes, and I saw a Lance Stephenson 3-pointer from an angle I’d never seen before.

That’s just some of my recent experience watching an NBA game while wearing a virtual reality headset.

The National Basketball Association is offering virtual courtside seats on Meta’s $299 Oculus Quest 2 devices. The headsets were one of the most popular Christmas gifts in 2021, showing that people seem to be more willing than ever to give virtual reality a try. And businesses are trying to keep your eyeballs on their content by creating VR versions of their apps and games.

An Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset and controllers, taken on September 28, 2020.

Phil Barker | Future | Getty Images

The NBA experience is free and available on Meta’s Horizon Venues platform, which is a free software download for the Oculus headset. People appear as digital avatars, sort of like cartoon versions of their real selves, and watch an NBA game from a courtside perspective. It’s not Jack Nicholson’s Los Angeles Lakers seat at Crypto.com Arena or Spike Lee’s seat at Madison Square Garden, but it almost replicates the real thing.

From a business perspective, the deal could give the NBA a new set of media rights, which is important as regional sports networks struggle.

Meanwhile, Meta — the company formerly known as Facebook — is using the partnership with sports providers including the NBA, WWE and Premier League to give people new reasons to try virtual reality.

Mark Zuckerberg’s company is making a $10 billion investment in the metaverse, a virtual world he believes will become the standard for social networking, gaming and even work.

Meta sent CNBC the Oculus 2 headset last month. I experienced the Jan. 10 NBA courtside game between the…

2022-01-15 08:00:01

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