This article contains third-party links.
As one of the oldest forms of sports still enjoyed today, horse racing has stood the test of time like few others. A large part of its success ties into the sport’s reverence for traditionalism, in keeping the core aspects of the established experience. At the same time, pushing forward the exterior aspects like how viewers engage continues to broaden the horizons of accessibility.
We saw these developments with broadcast television, and then cable television with dedicated horse racing channels. When the internet arrived, the environment evolved even further, providing an easy way for fans to watch many minor races from their home computers. Mobile internet then took viewing to a new level, letting us watch from practically anywhere on the planet.
Yet, as far as the viewing experiences in horse racing have come, they’re still far from achieving the full potential of what’s on offer at the festivals. Already tested next-gen technology could drive horse racing to new heights, and while it won’t be for everyone, for the right person, the next step could be the best yet.
Setting the Digital Stage
The next level of technology to facilitate watching racing will all be built on the foundation of the internet. Online services have already paved the way for these systems, exemplified by websites like those which offer the best Cheltenham betting offers and free bets. It used to be that even seeking out a single way to bet while not in the area was next to impossible. With new websites, comparing bonus offers and services like Bet Victor and William Hill is quick and simple, no matter your technical acumen.
Stepping into the next level has already been explored years ago, as some might remember with 2020’s Grand National. This event took to the virtual space, using AI and virtual reality technologies to simulate real racing conditions. It might not have stood up to the excitement of the real event, but it demonstrated just a sliver of the potential available with cutting-edge next-gen technologies. In the 2020s to come, these experiences are destined to reach even greater heights.
The Technology of Tomorrow
There are three major points around which the new generation of viewing technology will be based; artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). Each of these has taken off in the new decade, and each is poised to make viewer experiences greater than ever.
AI’s use will be the least obvious to the outside viewer, as it will act to streamline AR and VR, as well as provide faster and more accurate updates to existing systems. One example would be how long it takes for websites to update scores from certain races when done manually. AI could perform this act automatically via what is called scraping, updating results the moment a race is complete. Less waiting around means a smoother overall experience, which is great for all viewers.
<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/QHj1cC-93Jo?si=fGovVbuRPSXBaGZL” title=”YouTube video player” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share” allowfullscreen></iframe>
Virtual reality systems could come into play by offering live virtual seats at the races from within a viewer’s home. This tech has already been tried via ITV’s coverage, allowing fans to rewatch events with a 360-degree view as if they’re really there. As VR headsets become cheaper and this form of viewing becomes more popular, it will see increasing adoption in live-streamed races.
Of course, viewing in virtual reality won’t match every aspect of experiencing the race physically. You won’t get the weather or the smells, and you won’t feel the thunder of the horses as they pass you by, but there are some distinct advantages too. You won’t suffer the weather or the smells, for example, since you’ll be able to enjoy from a comfortable position of your choosing.
Augmented reality could serve to relay information like real-time stats and weather forecasts all in customisable user interfaces. Such tech has already been explored in sports like football, and it could see similarly useful integration in horse racing. On the extreme end, it could even be possible for AR to place a virtual race track on your coffee table, letting you take a birds-eye few of races while you cheer on your horse.
The exact time frame of these new technologies becoming available is in question, but make no mistake, it’s a matter of when and not if. As the barriers to entry shrink by the year, both user and operator costs become more reasonable, and user-friendly. We’re on the verge of an exciting new age in horse racing, and even if you prefer to engage the old way, more options could do great things to expand the sport.
Michael specializes in journalism, digital content production and social media management. He has a passion for numerous sports including football, horse racing and ice hockey. Michael currently works on a freelance basis, producing daily content for various outlets within the sports industry.