Could Hands-Free VR Transform The eSports Industry?

Technology has evolved exponentially in the past few years. Affecting all industries, from business to healthcare to gaming, there are more opportunities than ever before for users to experience immersive environments, AI-powered personalization and even their favorite sport, all in a virtual world.

One industry in particular that is benefiting from a rise in the adoption of AR?VR tech is eSports. As sporting in a digital realm becomes all the more popular, the addition of virtual reality could guide sporting fanatics into a new era. 

As an industry expected to be worth more than $5.74 billion by 2030, eSports is constantly changing, especially in the wake of Covid-19. As we saw real sporting events lie low, eSports became a new outlet for sport-hungry digital natives and avid gamers alike.  

“The pandemic definitely brought esports much more mainstream,” says Phelan Hill, Nielsen Sports’ head of strategy and consulting. “All of a sudden, you had acknowledgment of esports on main broadcasters. It was on the BBC and Sky in the UK. It certainly brought it to the forefront.”

As we enter a new frontier of esporting, the question is, where could the industry go next? Growing in line with technological advancements such as hands-free VR and haptic sensors, the future of eSports is starting to look more like a real-life pitch, court or racetrack. With this in mind, let’s have a closer look at what tomorrow has to offer. 

(Image Source: Blacksmith Studios)

A New Era of eSporting

eSporting is certainly heading into a transitional period. As popular esporting platforms such as Valorant and League of Legends embrace new realms of immersion, users are quickly finding themselves embodying the characters they play with and controlling their actions on screen using their bodies rather than a traditional controller. 

Thanks to the birth of the metaverse and a number of XR-based developments, VR-powered eSports has become a new reality. With the ability to introduce haptic feedback, motion tracking and action-driven gameplay, eSporting is becoming just as much of a physical activity as the sports we play on the field. 

Better still, VR is improving eSport spectating too. With the ability to physically sit in an F1 arena or an intense boxing match from the comfort of your couch, it’s no wonder that sporting fanatics are tapping into VR-powered sporting competitions. 

Better still, every spectator has a front-row seat at an eSport game. It has never been easier to zoom in on a screen, change your viewing angle and even customize your own broadcast.

The question is, as we continue to blur the lines between traditional sporting and eSports, will the two industries one day combine? 

Can VR Improve Your eSporting Skills?

VR is also improving eSports training. As a tool that aims to improve hand-eye coordination, VR headsets can position players in an immersive sporting arena in seconds, removing distractions and outside stimuli.

Better still, VR can even help eSport athletes learn how to use their limbs more accurately and judge their surroundings when within a game or battle. In fact, there are a number of different VR mini-games that eSport players can enjoy when training for their next competition

Take Fun and Simple, for example. This helpful HEC builder uses motion censoring and eye-tracking technology to teach the user how to juggle in VR. This builds up coordination and concentration while teaching the user to be comfortable with distractions. While juggling, each user is surrounded by large and noisy crowds, making their task just that bit harder. 

VR is also a great tool to help calm yourself before an eSporting competition too. Mindfulness apps such as WiseMind are great HEC coordination platforms that also prioritize wellness. From learning Tai Chi to rock stacking, you can also practice your HEC in a tranquilizing immersive space. 

(Image Source: VR Fitness Insider)

Going Hands-Free

So where will eSports go next? According to the commissioner of the ESL Pro League, Alex Inglot, both the player base and the tech they use will continue to evolve in the coming years. 

“The player base is growing worldwide. For example, CS: GO has hit a record 1.3 million concurrent players in 2023. Without generalizing, the games are growing in users, in the community. I think a lot of investors are looking long-term. Of course, there are some who are thinking, ‘What do I get in the next three to five years?’ but if they’re allowed to be a bit more long-term, esports has to be in the portfolio. It’s still a bridge to all of these exciting macro trends, whether it’s virtual reality, the metaverse, digital asset valuation and collection,” he says.

The question is, could hands-free VR take eSports one step further? As we welcome haptic gloves and suits, more ways to improve immersion continue to enter the market. Many VR companies have already launched full-body haptic suits, which aim to physically place all parts of a player in the game. 

From bullets hitting your skin to the feeling of actually kicking a ball, eSports has just got even more exciting.