While virtual reality (VR) has long been viewed as "the next big thing," practical applications for the technology beyond video games have been hard to come by.

In some ways, VR's path has mirrored that of 3D video. People seem to like the idea, but very few of them have actually embraced it. VR has so far been relegated to headsets that are more gimmicks than useful devices. There are signs however that 2017 will be the year VR breaks through, and FOX (NASDAQ: FOX) has plans to help make that happen.

The broadcast company's FOX Sports division will be working with virtual reality company LiveLike to broadcast the Dec. 10 Major League Soccer Cup through the FOX Sports VR app. This is a first for a major(ish) sports event.

"We are thrilled to work with Audi and offer VR capabilities for FOX Sports' first MLS Cup broadcast and once again team with LiveLike on such an important and historic event for the company," said FOX Sports Senior Vice President Devin Poolman in a press release."MLS has done a tremendous job helping soccer grow in the United States and we couldn't be more excited to be working with them on the first VR experience for the MLS Cup."

How will it work?

During the game viewers who download the FOX Sports VR app will be able to watch any of five camera angles, with or without a headset. They will also be able to enter a "virtual suite" with access to rosters and live stats. The presentation also includes what FOX calls a "magic window" experience for iOS and Android, as well as fully immersive VR on both Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR.

"The match will also include a first-of-its-kind VR replay feature for iOS users, allowing viewers to rewind the game in 30-second increments going as far back as 30 minutes, as well as the ability to control replays from different camera angles," wrote the company.

Why does this matter?

For FOX, this is a gimmick designed to interest marginal fans in a semi-important sporting event. For virtual reality, this is a tiny step toward convincing people that the technology has a mainstream future.

In order for VR to become more than a niche product mostly for gamers, the platform will need a lot more content like this. Still, you have to start somewhere, and this is a good way to show off the potential of what could be the next big thing, but is more likely to become the next 3D television.

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Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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