Instead of a flat screen, a head-mounted display. 360-degrees to explore the locker room, the stretching, the athletes while dribbling, passing, trying free throws. You are incredibly close to the athletes, you can feel like you are part of the Portuguese wheelchair basketball team. It is only a five-minute experience, but it provides a special access to the training universe. Welcome to the Paralympic sport’s world.
This is what comes with Paralympic VR: an immersive experience, Caroline Delmazo Master’s project on New Media and Web Practices incubated at the iNOVA Media Lab. The prototype was presented in the Sports Innovation Exhibition held at Jamor High Performance Athletics Training Centre on March 12th, in the occasion of the launch of the Portuguese Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Preparation Program.
Dozens of athletes from different sports, such as Triathlon, Football, Basketball, Swimming, Athletics and Para Athletics, experienced the 360-degree video with the Samsung Gear VR headset. They were excited about being “transported” to the training and learning more about the wheelchair basketball. António Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal, also tried the Paralympic VR prototype and commented on how close to the athletes he felt during the experience.
Using Virtual Reality techniques, Paralympic VR aims to contribute to let people see the athletes as athletes, avoiding some clichés regularly used by traditional Media outlets when telling stories about Paralympic sports. The project started with the wheelchair basketball and, with the support of iNOVA Media Lab, the goal is to go further and record 360-degree videos in other sports.
A second part of the Paralympic VR has also been developed in partnership with Raquel Macedo, a Master’s student in Computer Science and Informatics Engineering in the Faculty of Sciences and Technology (NOVA/FCT). In the Paralympic VR Game both computer-generated elements and 360 video will be used to create the virtual environment in which the user will be able to play in the athlete’s shoes, in a first-person point of view.