THE BLOG

Is AR Vs VR A Betamax/VHS War Revisited?

09/05/2017 11:00 BST | Updated 09/05/2017 11:00 BST

There are many things that are great about working with millennials, but one of the drawbacks is when a cultural reference is met with a blank stare - today's was Betamax.

The reason for the delve into the technical archives was a fascinating piece of insight that was shared at last week's Sports Technology Awards. The Awards bring leading industry figures from around the world together to see and celebrate the best in tech-led innovation in sport. Each year we use the Awards to showcase an upcoming piece of technology; last year it was drones and robots, this year it was the turn of Augmented Reality (AR) which was used to communicate everything from the menu, table plan and running order, to extended information about the winners.

One guest questioned the choice of AR over VR (virtual reality), for us it was simple. Having researched our options, we realized that AR - the digital signage version (Skignz) rather than the produce recognition-led variety - is nimble, effective, inexpensive and can be a lot of fun. Sure, there were elements of it which could do with refining, but overall it did the job we wanted it to very well. The point of failure with using it for an event is that the audience needs to embrace it; luckily for us, despite a more 'senior' bias in the room, enough of the Awards' guests did.

The alternative was to use VR - as stunning as this technology is, it simply wasn't viable. Despite kicking the tyres hard, it wasn't possible to strike the right balance between budget, supplying ample numbers of headsets and creating content that presented guests with a genuinely fresh experience of the technology.

So why the VHS/Betamax reference? Brace yourself... Our decision to make AR our tech of choice had been made for well-considered reasons however, our guest assured us that we had been lucky enough to make them for a few reasons we hadn't considered, namely porn. It is a popular myth that Betamax lost out to VHS because the porn industry released more product on VHS - this has widely been discredited but, accordingly to our source, there is a strong suspicion amongst industry watchers that VR could actually fail for a similar reason, especially for the mass-market. The issue is that users would be so totally immersed in what they were watching in virtual reality, they leave themselves open to getting busted in the real world.

Who knows the degree to which this is true but, like the VHS vs Betamax fable, it certainly is a credible consideration.

The Sports Technology Awards took place on 4th May at the Roundhouse in London, here are the winners:

• Best Elite Sports Facility or Venue - Sacramento Kings, Golden 1 Center

• Rights Holder of the Year - The Championships, Wimbledon

• Outstanding Startup - Football Whispers

• Most Innovative Sports Partnership - Hewlett Packard Enterprise and DS Virgin Racing Formula E

• Most Innovative Fan Engagement Campaign - Dimension Data - Tour de France

• Most Innovative Wearable - STATSports

• Best Web Development - NBA Facebook Messenger with WSC Sports

• Most Innovative Sponsor - Dimension Data - Tour de France

• Best App - Find A Player

• Best-Integrated Digital Media - CricHQ

• Most Innovative Live Sports Experience or Event - BT Sport - UEFA Champions League Final

• Best Technology for Managers and Coaches- Performance - ForceDecks

• Best Technology for Managers and Coaches- Athlete Welfare - DNAFit

• Sports Tech Young Exec Alexandra Willis - AELTC

• Best Technology for Commercial Returns - KORE Software

• Best Participation Technology - LTA ClubSpark

• Best New Innovation - RightNow Digital

• Best Digital TV Product or Broadcast Innovation - NeuLion 4K Live Streaming

• Best Technology for Fan Engagement - NBA Rapid Replay