Last year, the UFC and Unity struck a deal to begin a partnership for live modeling for the promotion’s events. With so many buzzwords going around like “metaverse,” “NFT’s,” “artificial intelligence,” and the likes, getting a clear view of the future is tough. But, after taking a huge interest in the metaverse from the last few months, it’s become a little more clear. And seeing the technology the UFC is using, I can say that if it’s done right, fans of technology and combat sports will be in for a major treat.
Unity? Metaverse? What the hell is that?
Let’s start with the metaverse. The idea behind the metaverse is straight out of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. In the book, the characters enter a virtual reality world to escape the terrible Earth that was created by mistreatment for centuries. In Ready Player One, it’s called “The Oasis.” But, from what Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s own mouth, it’s going to be called the “Metaverse.” Spearheaded by the company’s Oculus Quest headset, Zuckerberg and company are hoping to be the glue that holds the metaverse together. It’s up to creators to design the world for the most part. While I’m sure that Facebook will come up with their own things to do in the metaverse, 99% of it will be created by other people.
So the metaverse is a virtual virtual world that people will be able to visit, play in, and experience in. The emphasis will be on the experience part. While video games are spearheading the way, new businesses and forms of entertainment will pop up in the metaverse. We’ve already seen digital concerts, talks with the Dalai Lama, and even MMA events with ONE Championship.
Keep in mind, the metaverse does not exist just yet, only the concept. Meta, Facebook’s new name, is still working on laying the groundwork for the metaverse to become a thing. It will be a virtual world that is accessible to anyone with an Oculus and eventually any VR headset. Simply put, think of the metaverse as a digital world that will be what you’ve always imagined. Think of it as a mix between Ready Player One (the book and the movie), Free Guy starring Ryan Reynolds, and the Tron series (hopefully) without the evil programs run amok.
Unity: The Building Blocks of the Metaverse
So what’s Unity then? Just like IRL (that means “in real life” for all you non-tech savvy people), the metaverse needs to be built. It won’t require physical goods in the traditional sense. There are no building materials, just models and assets. Models and assets are digitally recreated items. Think of a video game like UFC 4. Someone had to scan in Petr Yan and make a digital version of him to be in the game. In the metaverse, everything will need a digital representation. So how do you make it? Unity is the UFC’s answer. There are other programs to digitally recreate, or even just create, something. But we are focusing on Unity today.
To create a real life version of Vasyl Lomachenko, Unity is used to model him, make him move like Lomachenko does, and essentially be Vasyl Lomachenko in the metaverse. But it’s not just people. Unity can build stadiums, worlds, guns, shirts, pencils. Unity can build an entire world.
Unity is what several large video games use to create their game. Some examples are Cuphead, Rust, Angry Birds 2, and Pokemon GO. Unity is the engine that creates all of the assets, makes them move and provides the rules of the world like gravity, physics, and more.
Circle back, what is the UFC’s plan with Unity?
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.Mike Tyson
So that brings us back to our main point: the UFC and Unity. What are the two doing together that will excite fans? Well long time readers will remember my piece: VR: The Future of Combat Sports. There I talked about the basics. Fans will be able to sit ring side and watch fights in virtual reality. Unity and the UFC are going to take it a step forward. I’ll explain.
Essentially, the UFC is working with Unity to do live fights in virtual reality. But they are planning on taking it a step further than ONE Championship, who just hooked up some 360 cameras at their events and play the video live. The UFC is planning on doing full recreations of their fights, fighters, and ring. Why is this different and better?
Well in ONE Championship’s case the only angles you get are where they set up their cameras. The UFC is creating full 3D reconstructions of the events and fans will be able to step foot in the cage. This makes so many more things possible. Do you want to know what fighting Georges St-Pierre is like? You will be able to rewatch from the viewpoint of Matt Serra as you get blitzed and mauled. Seriously, check out the GIF of it below. Remember the quote above from Mike Tyson.
Keep in mind that is an unfinished product. But you get the idea. You can put yourself in any position in the cage. You can be ring side watching from the coaches seat. Or you can be in the same spot as the referee to see what Herb Dean saw.
This is possible because the UFC and Unity will be creating the event in 3D instead of stitching together video and making it 3D like ONE Championship does. Essentially, the UFC is hoping to recreate their fights as if they were part of a video game and you get to be wherever you want in the stadium.
This is done with motion tracking in real time using lasers, sonics, or infrared to follow them around and then letting a computer recreate it. Neat right?
Now, to take it a step further, the UFC is hoping to do this live. That takes money. While live streaming is possible, even ONE Championship has a hard time with this aspect. None of their events are live. They are recorded in 360 video, fixed up with software and then pushed to the Oculus. The UFC wants to cut that out.
This will take a lot of computing power, which is also expensive. But if anyone has the money to do so, it’s the UFC and Endeavor. To have a fight digitally analyzed, recreated, and streamed out to a server to distribute to the Oculus is going to take a lot. And with the current chip shortage, this will take money, money and more money. But that’s okay.
But, time is on the UFC’s and Unity’s side. Remember the metaverse isn’t real yet. The technology to do these things are there, but the distribution and framework is not. The UFC is going ot get a head start on every other sports league, like they often do. It’s only a matter of time before you can watch these fights in the coliseum or in space.