“You Vs. Sharapova”: VR to let fans play tennis with Maria Sharapova at 2015 US Open

[It’s one thing to watch the top athletes at work but this new VR application is designed to give fans a sense of what it’s like to play against them; the story is from Forbes and includes the three videos mentioned along with more images. The press release is available from Business Wire. –Matthew]

Maria Sharapova on VR set

[Image: Tennis Professional Maria Sharapova On-Set at the American Express “You Vs. Sharapova” and “Vs. on the River” Virtual Reality Shoot in Los Angeles, CA.]

Amazing Technology Allows Fans To Play Tennis With Maria Sharapova At 2015 US Open

Gabe Zaldivar, Contributor
Aug 18, 2015

The future is here, and it features the ability to return a serve from a virtual version of Maria Sharapova at the 2015 U.S. Open.

An opportunity normally afforded tennis stars at the top of their game comes to myriad fans thanks to budding virtual reality technology, which inches ever closer to something akin to “Star Trek’s” holodeck.

Rather than asking the computer to load a program, however, you will slap on an HTC Vive set and attempt to return a 100 mile-per-hour serve.

Via a press release, American Express promises a “first-of-its-kind virtual reality” experience taking place at the 2015 U.S. Open, which takes place starting August 31.

Now trying to manage a serve from the world’s No. 2 player in the world sounds like a lofty goal, but the following [1:03 minute] video suggests plenty of encouragement from generous avatars in the game.

The experience is called “You Vs. Sharapova” and it’s just that: a simulation that brings fans as close as possible to playing tennis with one of the world’s greatest.

To do this, officials use HTC Vive technology along with Valve’s Lighthouse tracking system.

The release explains that this is going to be far more immersive than your hours toiling on the Wii U or mashing buttons on another system.

You will be standing and waving your arms as you send lob shots screaming down the other end of the court.

Here is a [8:35 minute] video that illustrates a similar experience offered at GamesCom 2015:

As the hosts explain in the video, simply hitting a bunch of balloons or watching a whale swim by is an amazing experience.

Now extrapolate that sentiment to being on the court with a CGI Sharapova in front of you, ready to launch a serve in your vicinity. While the experience is conjured with technology and left in the virtual world, we imagine the adrenaline coursing through your body will be quite real.

When it comes to how all of this is created, the following [9:37 minute] video illustrates the painstaking detail that went into the future American Express event.

Sharapova shared a bit on the experience of being motion-captured in the video: “Well, the shoot was very intense. There are so many different stations. You’re trying to find all the little details and all the movements.”

The 28-year-old who has amassed over $3.2 million in prize money this year offered that the experience was kind of like having a twin manufactured.

Cloning a world-class athlete may be the stuff of science fiction, but playing a virtual version is very much a reality.

Now this is just one part of the American Express Fan Experience, which will also feature a Fan Court and Radio Live at the Open interaction.

The Fan Court promises, “daily live programming,” including the opportunity to mix it up with athletes like John Isner and Monica Puig.

Officials will also offer limited quantities of earpieces for fans to enjoy a live presentation of the Open as it unfolds.

Sharapova who is No. 26 on Forbes’ list of World’s Highest Paid Athletes was quick to celebrate the collaboration: “The US Open is an electric event and American Express does a fantastic job engaging fans in the sport in new ways at the tournament year after year.”

Fans preparing for their journey to the 2015 U.S. Open are undoubtedly excited to see the world’s best players compete in another rousing tournament.

In a strange but promising twist, this year actually lets a lucky few see what it might be like to exchange some volleys with one of the highly touted athletes.

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