Exclusive Interactive VR Experiments

Throughout 2017, we have been experimenting with interactive and immersive virtual reality concepts. Our team collaborated with STRIVR to take ShotLink 3-D models and turn them into interactive golf experiences for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. When we started the project, the Touch controllers were still new and we wanted to incorporate them into the experience to make it interactive. To fully immerse players into the virtual golf worlds we created, we developed a custom Oculus Touch golf club controller. The golf club controller is weighted so that it feels like a real golf club.

THE PLAYERS Championship

About 8 weeks before THE PLAYERS Championship, we agreed on a project scope with STRIVR. We shared our 3-D Unity models with them and together, we built an amazing VR game experience that integrates historic video content from THE PLAYERS Championship, custom voice-over work, audio cues, fully immersive views of the iconic 17th hole at the TPC SawgrassStadium Course, and branded areas for THE PLAYERS Championship and its Proud Partners (PwCMorgan StanleyOptum).

Here is a quick review of the game and its mechanics. While the player gets comfortable in the virtual environment, 2002 PLAYERS Championship winner Craig Perks invites players to watch the historic victory of Rickie Fowler as he birdies the 17th hole three times in one day, something no other player has matched. Players are then prompted to take three tries at getting onto the island green. A floating picture-in-picture screen shows a close-up view of the player’s ball traveling through the air and into the water or onto the green.

Next, players are transported to the drop zone area of the 17th hole. Another video clip showing just how difficult hitting from this area can be even though it is half the distance to the hole than from the tee. Players are prompted to give it a go three times.

Finally, players are transported to the exact spot on the island green where Tiger Woods struck the legendary “Better than Most” putt in 2001. The video clip plays and the player gets a chance to try and re-create that putt.

A leaderboard is displayed at the end of the experience, showing the player how they compare to all other players of the game.

THE PLAYERS Championship and Proud Partner logos are embedded in different areas of the virtual environment of the “TPC Sawgrass Virtual Golf Experience.” The logos can be seen on the home screen, leaderboard, picture-in-picture screen, and on the tee box markers. The experience was available exclusively to guests in the hospitality areas of THE PLAYERS Championship.

THE NORTHERN TRUST & TOUR Championship

On the heels of the “TPC Sawgrass Virtual Golf Experience” success, we again collaborated with STRIVR to build the “Play a Round, Share a Round” experience for Anheuser-Busch. We worked closely with them to artfully weave the Michelob ULTRA branding throughout the experience.

As players get acquainted with the new virtual surroundings, Mark Immelmanchallenges them to get on the green of the iconic 18th hole at East Lake Golf Club in two shots. A floating picture-in-picture screens shows players a close-up view of their shot as it travels through the air with an ULTRA branded shot trail.

Players take their second shots from the fairway, see how they did on the leaderboard, and are prompted to share their experience on social channels using the #LiveULTRA hashtag.

The “Play a Round, Share a Round” experience features Michelob ULTRA branding throughout. The logos are naturally incorporated into the home screen, leaderboard, picture-in-picture screens, on various structures around the course, on the tee box markers, and on the golf club. Additionally, the ULTRA colors are used throughout the experience on things like the golf club grip, signage, and in the shot trails. It was available exclusively to ULTRA Club hospitality guests at THE NORTHERN TRUST and the TOUR Championship.

Here are a few things we learned during this process:

  • Give players ample space to play the game. After having set these experiences up at a few tournaments, we would recommend at least a 10×10 ft. area. The area should be well defined so that other guests are aware that game play is in progress.
  • Oculus Rift works best indoors. In the instances where the game was setup outdoors (even in covered areas), the sun would sometimes interfere with the Sensors and the Rift headset. We had to reset the sensors once and for players to stay fully immersed for the entirety of the experience, light shouldn’t be allowed to seep into the Rift headset. Additionally, sometimes it can be hot at golf tournaments. When people visit the Hospitality areas, brow sweat is not uncommon and make the headsets uncomfortable for users.
  • Interactive VR Games have potential to be monetized. Everyone loves the experience of virtual reality games, but few have figured out the business side of it. This new medium has a lot of potential and we’re doing our best to find the right ways to include our partners, sponsors, and advertisers. We are also exploring ways to make the branded areas in the games configurable for future iterations of the games.

The team is excited to begin shaping the future of interactive golf gaming and we’re looking forward to creating new interactive and immersive virtual golf experiences.