Maria Sharapova makes an appearance in VR, nearly 20 years after Andre Agassi

by Ian Hamilton • September 1st, 2015

An HTC Vive experience promoting American Express features tennis star Maria Sharapova and lets people don the headset to take the court against the athlete. You vs. Sharapova is being shown at the US Open in New York, where Sharapova just bowed out of the tournament because of an injury.

The experience was made by Reel FX and the making of video below shows the green screen and light stage technology used to capture Sharapova’s movements with a few glimpses of the experience provided. The experience is made more notable when put in context with a video I saw on Twitter that Matt Terndrup posted. It is a video from 1997 featuring ’90s tennis star Andre Agassi offering his avatar to Nike for a virtual reality-related commercial.

Compare below:

Watching the two promotions back to back really encapsulates just how far VR has come with the silly ’90s ad merely imagining what is technically possible with 2015 technology. For example, the way Agassi’s face is wrapped to “virtual Andre” in the commercial is an actual thing you can do with current technology.

While a game of tennis in VR might require a lot of space to move around a full court, the Toybox demo Oculus is showing to demonstrate its Oculus Touch controllers includes a virtual ping pong paddle so players in separate rooms can play a game of table tennis against one another in a virtual environment. People have also been juggling virtual objects with the SteamVR controllers too.

Overall, the demos suggest just how close we are to being able to hold competitions in VR that require precision hand-eye coordination. When paired with low latency Internet connections the dream of using VR to challenge a far-off friend, sibling or world-class star to a competitive game that requires some physical athleticism is really not that far fetched.

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