Sports in virtual reality sounds cool, but can feel distant

This May 2, 2017, photo provided by Intel and Major League Baseball shows a "fan" view from a baseball game in Detroit. The virtual-reality coverage includes a view using standard television cameras, top center, showing the pitcher, batter and catcher in one shot. Major League Baseball, in a partnership with Intel, has had a free game in VR every Tuesday, subject to blackouts of hometown teams. (Courtesy of Intel/MLB via AP)

Watching sports in virtual reality sounds cool, but it's actually distant, sort of empty and doesn't really get you into the action

NEW YORK — When watching sports in virtual reality, it's best to remind yourself that TV wasn't born in a day. Early television was mostly radio with pictures. It took years — even decades — for producers to figure out the right camera angles, graphics and instant replays to deliver.

Sports is going through a similar transformation. VR holds the promise of putting fans right in the middle of the sporting action — on the 50-yard line, say, or in a ringside seat, or standing behind the catcher as the umpire calls strikes.

But today's VR sports have an empty and distant feel to them. Watching through a headset sometimes feels like being there in the stadium ... by yourself, absent cheering fans, hot dogs and beer. And it doesn't get you close enough to the action to compensate.

For now, the zoom lenses of television cameras do a much better job of showing a pitcher's intensity or a free-throw shooter's concentration.

Yet Intel, NextVR and other companies are working to bring a variety of sports — boxing, golf, soccer, %href_on(file:

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