When virtual reality really started to emerge late in 2015 and early in 2016, a lot of the entertainment developments were fairly easy to predict.
Some of the most exciting early headlines revolved around the movie The Martian, and how virtual reality was being used to craft a game-like experience around the film. One article asked if the VR version of The Martian represented the future of cinematic storytelling, and even then the question seemed inevitable. VR isn’t bringing us full movies yet—at least not major ones—but some version of cinematic entertainment through this technology is going to emerge in a big way, and probably soon.
We’ve also seen some predictable movement with regard to casino-style entertainment through VR. Overviews of the latest offerings at online casinos focus heavily on live dealer experiences, which are bringing players into their own kind of virtual reality. Watching a dealer through a real-time video feed allows players to feel as if they’re sitting at actual card tables. VR is a natural next step for this industry by building off of the live dealer trend, and we’ve already seen an early attempt at a casino game for virtual reality headsets.
Then there are countless ordinary gaming genres that are being adapted and twisted into new forms for VR. Whether you’re interested in shooters, adventure games, puzzles, or just about anything else, chances are it’s being tried.
One virtual reality development not a lot of people were talking about until it actually happened was the rise of drone racing as a competitive activity that some are already considering it a legitimate sport. It’s not that people couldn’t race drones before the emergence of VR, but races were limited by speed and distance. You simply can’t race a drone very far if you can’t see it after a few seconds! With VR competitors are able to put themselves in the cockpit, and view terrain from the perspective of the drone itself. This has enabled better and longer races, as well as more interesting courses.
The sport has already grown significantly in just the last couple years. A professional league (Drone Racing League) has emerged, and ESPN has already granted it airtime, both last fall and this coming summer. This is an activity that people want to try, and if they can’t try it they’re interested in watching it.
The DRL recently took a significant step toward expanding its reach and becoming a legitimate sport rather than a budding area of interest. The league closed a Series B investment round and announced it had picked up more than $20 million from major media companies. These included Sky, Liberty Media, and Lux Capital, as well as Allianz and the WWE. That’s a list of genuine heavyweights in the world entertainment and media, and may be the biggest indication yet that drone racing is being taken seriously.
A year ago, this seemed like a fad that may or may not stick around for a while. Now, Drone Racing League seems like the next big alternative sport. With more major companies looking to invest in the fledgling competition it’s going to be exciting to see how the future of drone racing is going to shake out.