Industry News

England Rugby, O2 to offer virtual reality experiences

England Rugby has partnered with telecommunications service provider, O2, to launch a series of virtual reality experiences.

O2 customers and fans will be able to go head-to-head against the England rugby team, or take a virtual tour of an O2 Academy venue as a star or a fan at a sold-out show.

The technology is a combination of real-life 360-degree video with interactive CGI characters. It uses Xsense motion-capture to provide accurate in-game player movement, taking cues from England players’ weight, mass and average speeds to ensure their character’s movements are as realistic as possible.

Dylan Hartley, George Ford, Maro Itoje, Ben Youngs, Henry Slade as well as Mako and Billy Vunipola were all motioned capped and feature in the experience.

The virtual reality players are challenged to track the player’s movements, and those of the ball, while taking part in virtual drills developed in partnership with England Rugby.

The interactive, points-based drills range from scrumming to tackling to kicking with the goal of being scouted as a national team player.

The series will be compatible with multiple VR platforms including Samsung Gear VR and will be available to try in 90 O2 stores around the country.

On match days at the national team’s home ground, Twickenham, fans will be able to virtually experience what it’s like to be an international rugby player. The series will also be available to download later this year.

“We really enjoyed working in partnership with O2 to develop this unique virtual-reality experience,” said England Rugby defence coach Paul Gustard.

“It’s the only game out there that has had input from England Rugby to create a great experience for fans. I hope the experience gives rugby fans and novices alike an insight in to the way we train and the amount of hard work that is involved in being an International rugby player.”

Several other sporting franchises have started offering VR experiences, such as Premier League football club Manchester City.

In January, the club partnered with VR specialists Jaunt to capture the sights and sounds from on and off the pitch to deliver a 360-degree cinematic experience for supporters.

The offering includes exclusive access to the players’ dressing room, a first-hand look as the team arrive at the ground and other behind-the-scenes content from the Etihad Stadium.