As brands continue to experiment with virtual-reality technologies, the consumer experience has only become more and more active. That's especially great for sports fans who want to experience what it's like to face off against their favorite athletes, and it's exactly what American Express did for this year's U.S. Open.
American Express crafted a VR experience that lets tennis fans play opposite Maria Sharapova. It's called "You vs. Sharapova," and it's the first VR experience to feature live action—consumers get to swing a racket and try to return Sharapova's serve—and a CGI version of an athlete.
Adweek previewed the engrossing VR experience Monday. It will be available to attendees of the U.S. Open, which takes place Aug. 31 to Sept. 13 in New York at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The video below approximates the experience, though it's much more enthralling when you've got a racket in your hand and are trying to make contact off Sharapova's 100-mph serve.
"Over the last several years, we've been immersing fans through technology in the game," said Deborah Curtis, vp of global sponsorships and experiential marketing at American Express. "For us, virtual reality is sort of the next evolution of what we have been doing, which is put the fan at the center of the experience. And in this case, we're allowing the fan to join this virtual world of being on the court with one of tennis' greats, Maria Sharapova."
The four-minute VR experience uses HTC Vive—the first consumer-oriented VR device scheduled to go on the market—and Steam VR technology. There will be three stations at the U.S. Open for fans to try it out.