All the Ways Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are Shaping Sports
Updated: Feb 7, 2021
It has been a year since ESPN’s President Jimmy Pitaro announced in an interview with the Wall Street Journal:
“We’ve been leaders in the virtual reality [VR] and augmented reality [AR] space for a long time now... we do not believe that AR and VR is a fad. ”
However, while more and more teams and stadiums are incorporating AR and VR into their fan experience to increase revenue, Allan Cook, head of Deloitte’s digital reality business, noted that:
“…with fewer people going to games, there is a general fear about adopting AR and VR and justifying the expense...”
Nonetheless, an increasing number of proven AR/VR use cases have emerged aimed at helping sports-related businesses grow sales and customer engagements. Here’s how AR and VR are shaping the world of sports:
1. At-Home Experience
Augmented reality is shaping the way in which fans enjoy sports from the comfort of their home. For fans watching from home, AR provides an immersive experience, as sports channels can utilize 3D graphics to overlay replays and live gameplay, opening up multiple possibilities. Sports broadcasters can overlay replays to provide in-depth analysis, and go over potential plays. This provides audiences a better understanding of the game, as well as a better overall experience. Many sports channels are already experimenting with this technology, including ESPN and Fox Sports, and are incorporating AR as part of their broadcasting and play-by-play analysis to highlighted information about the game in real-time.
2. In-Stadium Experience
Augmented reality can also improve sports for fans that prefer the in-person experience. In-stadium experiences lack visual content. Currently, if audiences want statistics, they must look it up online themselves. Half-time shows can also be improved by AR. By integrating AR into the in-stadium experience, audiences can definitely enjoy a more immersive experience, and in lat last year, Nexus Studios did exactly that by transforming the AT&T Stadium in Dallas into a massive stage for location-based AR visualizations.
© Nexus Studios
3. Team Spirit
For teams, AR represents an opportunity to create original content that strengthens the team brand and fan support. Already in 2019, after the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup, the hockey team partnered with Bud Light to create an AR-based experience for fans, commemorating the Stanley Cup champions at there favorite bar. Fans were able to visit bars around St. Louis, filled with different AR effects including face filters, individual player effects, and Bud Light branded elements. The Washington Capitals also partnered with Bud Light to provide its fans AR games using coasters in local bars located near the Capital One Arena. The San Francisco 49ers and the Sacramento Kings also published AR experiences in the past aimed at team spirit.
In a post COVID-19 world, the Minnesota Vikings are offering a Vikings VR experience available on the Oculus store for fans to roam around the Vikings’ stadium and view 360-degree videos and photos from Vikings games and events. Once reopened, the Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium also offers an onsite interactive “Vikings Voyage” VR experience for die-hart fans.
© Minnesota Vikings
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Augmented reality offers a new way to market to both at-home and in-stadium audiences. Most sports teams and venues have sponsorships with major brands and AR offers them a new and interactive way to advertise their products and engage their customers. For example, ADI’s Virtual Hybrid digiBOARD, currently used in soccer games, allows companies to target different global audiences with personalized virtual feeds of advertisements.
5. On-Field Rulings
One of the most game-changing applications of VR in sports is the use of VR for on-field rulings. With the aid of cameras all throughout the court and stadium, one can generate and replay full 3D recreations of game plays in questions, giving referees the proper information needed to make the right call. The Sony-owned Hawk-Eye system, currently used in tennis, cricket, badminton, soccer, and more, is able to recreate a ball’s trajectory with extreme accuracy (no more than a 5 mm margin of error!) within less that 10 seconds. It has been adopted as the goal-line technology of choice by the Premier League as well as the on-field ruling system for the Wimbledon Championships, the Australian Open, and more.
© Hawk-Eye Innovations Ltd
AR can also be used for learning and practicing different sports with the help of real-time data visualization of one’s moves, speed, precision, and technique. For example, PuttView uses the power of AR to help golf player with their aim and swing, while DribbleUp uses a combination of smart soccer balls and basketballs with AR-based apps to assist kids training at home.
7. The future of AR/VR in sports: In-game applications? VR E-Sports?
Already in March of 2014, former Minnesota Vikings punter, Chris Kluwe argued that AR can be used to provide players with real-time data about plays, moves and instructions during the game itself on displays mounted on the players helmets. In addition, competitive VR experiences and VR e-sports are becoming more and more poplar. The same is true for fantasy football apps that can benefit from AR/VR-based features. Only time will tell what’s next for AR/VR in sports but we can’t wait to find out!
Do you know of any other use cases for AR in sports? Let us know on our Slack channel.
echoAR (http://www.echoAR.xyz; Techstars ’19) is a cloud platform for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) that provides tools and server-side infrastructure to help developers & companies quickly build and deploy AR/VR apps and experiences.