I was a little hesitant about wearing a virtual reality headset to watch a basketball game.
If I’m not at the game, it’s always nice to just unplug and sit on my couch to watch the NBA’s slate for the day. Maybe I’ll have my phone nearby so I can take notes or check Twitter for fan reactions, but for the most part, I typically like to use the sport as a brief escape.
But I eventually got a chance to try on the Meta Quest 2 VR headset and visit the NBA Arena in Meta Horizon World. It was an immersive, 180-degree courtside experience.
The NBA had five broadcasts this season and the experience was surreal. Here is what I saw once I gave it a try:
This broadcast used five 8K cameras (including two at each basket and one on the scorer’s table) and although you don’t get to decide which camera you get to watch, it does a good job alternating angles for you.
“We love using the courtside camera,” said Andrew Kehrer, who helped produce these VR broadcasts. “But it’s like watching a tennis match from the court. It’s going left and right, and we don’t want fans to have to move their heads too much.”
It’s more technologically advanced than the NBA’s initial virtual reality broadcast in 2015 or when For The Win got a chance to watch the 2016 NBA Finals in VR.
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This quality was outstanding in stunning 5K resolution. For comparison, the “majority of game feeds” on the NBA redesigned global app are in 1080p and you may find 720p for some broadcasts as well. The difference is massive.
I’ll note, though, that the monoscopic VR180 format appeared more flattened than you might expect when you initially hear the words virtual reality. It was not as all-encompassing as the Jurassic World video I also watched on my headset. But this was by design — you’re getting a higher-quality video this way.
Overall, the broadcast was more of an interactive experience than I anticipated.
Once I arrived at the Xtadium/Horizon Worlds screens while using my Meta Quest headset, I was able to hear all of the other fans “attending” the game on their headsets as well. I probably would have enjoyed this more if I had other friends using the headset at the same time that I was.
Meanwhile, NBA champion Richard Jefferson and WNBA champion Renee Montgomery were, as usual, wonderful as the announcers on the call.
I’m not sure how well I’d adjust to wearing the headset to watch NBA broadcasts on a more regular basis. But it was a nice change of pace and something I’ll continue to check out as virtual reality technology continues to advance.