The future of athletics: Competitive sports enter the virtual realm

[From North Idaho College’s Sentinel Online]

Virtual athletics: Reboot

Future athletes will dominate cyberspace

Eric Rivera
December 5th, 2011

North Idaho College’s athletic department has been geared for many years now to pursue a path of excellence. But with technology changing rapidly everyday, would that ideal hold up if the sports world expanded into a virtual reality setting?

Recently, I had an opportunity to watch both TRON movies, and the game concept from the new and old videos had me thinking about possibilities for the future. In recent generations, we have seen televisions transform from the clunky old cathode ray tube to LCDs and now into 3-D.

Digital convergence is happening all around us, and it won’t be long before we see the sports world begin to collide with the virtual realm. I think that one day our athletes might be able to download their personas into a virtual setting and compete against other players, schools or national and global teams.

Now this is all just speculation, but imagine if we could put a lifelike avatar into virtual reality and control them with our minds. It would be like having the world of “The Matrix” but using the gadget in “Avatar” to control the virtual body.

The ability to modify the physics of the environment could open up a whole new set of sports not able to be achieved in our gravity-forsaken world. Colleges and athletes around the globe would have a whole new arena to earn bragging rights in.

One game I know they would have to include would be very similar to the “Disc Battle” from the movie “TRON:Legacy.” For those not familiar with this game, it is simply a rectangle with a floor comprised of hexagon panels that break when hit with the disc object.

The disc can be bounced off the walls to strike the floor or opponent, but would not maim or decapitate any of the athletes playing like in the movies. When the floor breaks completely and the athlete falls through, he or she loses.

I could see NIC excelling at the “Disc Battle,” even if it was to become an official sport tomorrow. The game of dodgeball is closely related to the virtual game, and Cardinal athletes have already shown a prowess in the field.

On Dec. 1, Rec. Sports held a dodgeball night in Christianson gymnasium and some softball and soccer players could be found competing in that night’s events. If virtual reality came to fruition tomorrow, our athletes could probably top the field.

Games to play would be endless, like virtual paintball, racing, blitz ball (for all the Final Fantasy fans), quidditch, and simulated real world sports, but it definitely wouldn’t be a substitute for competing in the real deal.

Skill and hand-eye coordination would still be necessary and knowledge of how to play conventional sports can never be created virtually.

These games would just offer a new way to think outside the box of conventional sports rules and physics and allow an individual to take it to the next level.

Imagine playing baseball on a larger field with lower gravity or playing paintball in a zero gravity environment.

North Idaho College continues to dream big in the real world and there is no doubt in my mind that the dream would extend into cyberspace. I will continue to dream big for my own chance at virtual reality as I keep my eyes locked on the Silicon Valley.

One day in the not so distant future, may we meet on the virtual frontier and let the best virtual athlete win.


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