Outdoor Sports & A Virtual Future

Outdoor sports, like most of what’s discussed here, have the name for a reason. They’re built for the real world, and when engaging in them - whether cycling along a trail, paddling a stand-up paddleboard, fishing, hiking, or whatever else - part of the thrill is feeling and interacting with the environment around you.

Because of that, there’s very little about outdoor sports and adventure activities that seems at first thought as if it would have anything to do with virtual reality. And yet, if you start from the VR perspective rather than that of an outdoor athlete, you might assume that the two would eventually meet. That is to say, from a VR perspective, any and all activities are fair game. To some extent it is the very nature of virtual reality to encompass all such activities - so, thinking of things from this perspective, the only logical conclusion would be that of course we’ll end up having ways of enjoying “outdoor” sports virtually.

There are already some examples developers have created, most notably in the cycling department. However, VR is still young and odds are that these existing examples are just touching on what outdoors sports’ potential in VR will look like in the end. With a little bit of imagination though, you can imagine what some of that potential will look like when it comes to fruition.

The site has posted on how to start a hobby in certain outdoor spheres before, in a practical sense. But discussions like those assume interest to begin with, and not everyone has an inherent interest in fishing, hiking, etc. VR could spawn that kind of interest virtually and lead people to consider trying the real thing. Fishing is actually an excellent example. For a lot of people whoo don’t regularly fish, or have never tried, it might simply seem to involved, or even not interesting enough, to get started.

A fishing game in VR, however, might seem fun to try. Thus, someone may try such an experience, get a taste for it, and ultimately trying some real outdoor sports.

New Retail Opportunities

Virtual reality vs. the real outdoors

An outdoors brand called Moosejaw, which you may have heard of, actually explored the idea of applying VR to its retail business back in 2016 - long before VR was as useful or sophisticated as it’s since become. Basically, the company created an app that included various simulations of rock climbing, hiking, and more, and which involved a sort of game component with retail opportunities. Basically, through the game, a user could win Moosejaw gear (which of course ultimately was meant to incentivize more shopping). It’s almost surprising we haven’t seen more imitation of this idea already, but there’s definitely a chance that boutique and chain outdoors stores alike could use VR simulations to pitch their gear, and potentially give it away or sell it.

More Avenues For Competition

VR hasn’t quite found its niche in sports and competition yet, but it’s being tried out in a lot of different ways. Some major sports leagues have used it to try to give fans first-person, in-stadium perspectives, with varying degrees of success. Some have discussed augmenting betting platforms that have already become packed with modern features with in-play betting through VR, allowing users to watch games in virtual reality and wager while “present.” VR is even being discussed by some as the whole foundation for a budding, new sport - specifically, in that it can give viewers a fresh perspective to make something like drone racing more interesting. Clearly there are a lot of ideas floating around, and some, it stands to reason, will make competitions in certain outdoor sports more appealing to the masses. Imagine for instance watching a major regatta from the perspective of a sailor, or being able to follow along a major bike race in similar fashion.

Idle Use For Existing Enthusiasts

Maybe most useful of all will be how virtual reality can be used by people who already have a passion for outdoor sports but can’t always do them in person, or may not be able to travel to ideal destinations for them. Nothing can beat the real thing - the feeling of the wind as you cycle down a hill, or the feel of your paddle pushing the water past your board - but VR is basically made to come as close as possible to doing so. Its best applications, therefore, will likely be those that enthusiasts can use to fill idle time or to simulate experiences at destinations around the world that they may or may not ever get to in person.

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I am an avid outdoorsman with experience in naturalist education, outside adventure education, ski instruction, and writing. In addition to my outdoor hobbies, I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable outdoor experience. I enjoy sharing my experiences of backcountry education teaching and guiding through writing. To contact Davis, visit the contact page. and About Us.