Virtual Reality Headsets Change Chess Championships in NYCby SDJJ Staff November 9, 2016
Chess is for brainiacs, but the game hasn’t been a hotspot for innovation. Now, with the World Chess Championship starting this Friday in New York City, when world champion Magnus Carlsen (Norway) goes head-to-head against challenger Sergey Karjakin (Russia), spectators can see the game in an entirely new way.
According to the company ChessVision, the World Chess Championship organizers have invested greatly in developing a technology that will allow spectators to watch the game using virtual reality headsets. The idea was to get remote spectators feeling like they are inside the actual venue. To accomplish this, the venue has been fitted with dozens of cameras to provide a 360-degree view of the action. Every spectator will have a digital dashboard equipped with computer analysis, sophisticated systems that can predict the next moves, commentary by some of the best experts in the game and live chat.
“The media industry and how we absorb content has changed radically and it is increasingly hard for a TV executive to justify putting on 6 hours of live chess on a terrestrial channel,” said Ilyna Merenzon, CEO of AGON, organizers of the World Chess Championship, in a statement sent by ChessVision. “But that’s fine because the internet could have been made for chess. Over 100,000 games are started online every minute of every day and the 600 million strong global audience for chess tends to live online. The 360-degree broadcast was born out of a commitment to make the chess watching experience much more interactive than had previously been the case.”
For ChessVision’s part, the Israeli start-up’s technology connects chess fans to each other through a mobile platform that makes it possible for any chess player to broadcast and share their games worldwide.
“As a young chess player, I often found it difficult to learn from my mistakes,” said Tzachi Slav, who founded ChessVision with his father, Moshe. “Like any other player, I used a pen and paper to jot down moves, but my move history was often lacking due to time constraints or being concentrated on the game itself. When my dad wanted to watch me play, he had to come to the venue. We were always thinking about how we could make it possible for any player to easily broadcast their games, when one day we decided to buckle down and start this project.
“This is a true revolution in terms of players being able to learn the game and for their friends and family to enjoy a perfect viewing experience.”
Moshe Slav is the former Chairman of the Israel Chess Federation. With ChessVision, he and Tzachi are aiming to cultivate that large online audience into a robust community of chess lovers. The expansion of viewing opportunities at this year’s World Chess Champions should help too.