Augmented Reality will have a big impact on sports in the coming few years as there are so many application that can be used. Not only athletes will benefit big time, but also fans, media and amateurs will experience real changes.
Augmented Reality (AR), what is it?
Excuse me! AR? What the heck is it? Of course for you youngsters, this is very likely bread and butter. However, for many this technology is still largely unknown. Some people may answer: “doesn’t that have to do with Pokemon Go or something?” Well at least they do have an idea. Pokemon Go was indeed a successful application of Augmented Reality.
So what is AR or Augmented Reality really? Let’s see what Webster’s dictionary is saying:
AR or Augmented Realty is an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (such as a smartphone camera).Webster’s dictionary
Lets just simplify it as a technology that overlays digital information on the real world environments. If you aim, let’s say your phone or your hololens or whatever device, on something (for example a building), information (images, text etc) will be displayed on that device. What building is it, what is its name, who designed it etc. Obviously this can improve your experience big time.
What’s the difference with VR and MR?
Ok, now that’s out of the way you might wonder what the difference is with Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR). Let’s watch the video below, which explains it pretty well.
So let’s summarize: VR (Virtual Reality) puts you in an artificial real 3D environment, AR (Augmented Reality) overlays digital information on the real world environments, whilst in MR (Mixed Reality) the overlay becomes a real 3D object where you can interact with in the real world.
AR is taking the world of sports by storm
One can easily say that Augmented Reality and its cousin Mixed Reality are here to stay. The technology is still relatively new and you can bet the number of applications will still grow tremendously. As long as glasses and hololenses are not commonplace, there is still a lot of ground to be gained.
Sports lend itself ideally for Augmented Reality and will disrupt almost every field. Below we will discuss 10 ways in which AR will have a significant impact.
1. Sports Entertainment and Fan Engagement
Augmented Reality is ideally suited for sports entertainment and fan engagement. Watching a game from the stadium is an adventurous experience for sure. However, you are definitely missing the visual content you get on your TV screen, telling you all about the sports, the background of the game, the participating teams and players etc. As you will read under the heading the venue/stadium, there are several solutions in the making which should solve this problem. However, there should still be a dosis of entertainment to make you go to a game or to be engaged.
Clubs, federations and event organisers have been busy in developing a range of new apps to increase the level of entertainment during the game and AR can help with this. Check out a couple of videos below (there are loads more), which visualise what can be done to increase the fun factor!
2. Sports Betting
Augmented Reality will no doubt significantly disrupt the sports betting industry. Imagine the following! You are sitting in front of your TV/computer/mobile, watching a sports game and you want to place a bet. With a device you point at your screen on a certain player, horse or team or whatever. Immediately all the data and statistics pop up, which you need before placing your bet.
This saves you considerable time, as no longer you have to dig into all kind of resources to get this information. Time is money and certainly in the betting world! But wait, there is more! You now also can actually place your bet by using an AR app on your screen, without actually leaving the game. Again you will be gaining valuable seconds! Moreover, you can also expect direct interaction with other users, who are also betting on the event you are watching. Maybe you can bet against the other user! I am sure you can see it happening! It will make the life of bookies an awful lot more difficult.
3. Sports Training
Augmented Reality is an excellent tool for training purposes and for learning new skills. A whole range of new situations and environments can be displayed and simulated. This way you can develop strategies for such occasions in case of happening. This will make your training session much more effective. Players will be able to improve their technique and skills using real time video and overlays. Coaches and players are already adapting AR solutions in this field.
But wait, there is much more! Smart clothing containing sensors may help you to improve for example your yoga poses or golfswing, which you can see now on your phone or glasses. Smart glasses and lenses can provide you with your real time training data, heart rate etc. Overlay techniques might help you in replicating the swing of your favorite golfer. The possibilities are endless and it will disrupt the job of coach/trainer.
4. Sports Refereeing
With the adoptation of AR, fairness in sports has greatly increased. We all know by now the indisputable Hawkeye, which is an Augmented Reality technique, which make sports like tennis, cricket and volleyball a lot more fair. No more disputes on whether a ball is in or out. The technique is already used in more than 20 sports! Expect a lot more to come! AR also lends itself to for example soccer, where it aids Video Assistant Referees in making the right decisions. With AR technology decisions can be quickly reviewed.
5. Sports Broadcasting
AR has already reached the world of broadcasting. You may not realise it but a 3D representation of the lineup of a certain team just before the game is nothing more than an AR application. So is 3D footage of a live game or 3D graphics and other interactive content onto the live video feed. Analysts may use video overlaying techniques to show alternative plays and tactics in the game or showing a 3D animation of a player from a different angle.
Such techniques enhance the viewer experience and hence engagement levels. Many broadcasters such as ESPN and Fox use AR as they realise the importance. Expect many more applications in the next few years. Below you see an interesting example on the studio floor, which certainly is appealing to cycling fans. No doubt, we will see more of this.
6. Sports Marketing and Advertising
Where there are people enjoying sports, there is marketing, sponsoring and advertising! Augmented Reality will be a great tool for marketeers and advertisers that want to promote products. An ordinary poster or brochure handed out during the game may suddenly become a barrel of fun when you point your phone at it; by doing so you will get more information or even better, you will get a special deal or price by playing a game.
Marketeers will create apps specifically aiming at target audiences and connected to the sports or clubs/players these audiences represent. GenZ does not like advertising on TV but as soon as interactivity and technology comes into the equation, they are game! The advertiser with the best app will score brownie points. In any case, it will help marketeers in obtaining useful information about their customers.
But this is not all! Sponsors and advertisers have to be creative in order to get the attention of the new generation. As said GenZ hates TV advertising or disturbing ads when streaming. On-field advertising will therefore be an important way to promote brands. This is where Augmented Reality may play an important role. View the picture below? What do you see and what is the difference between the four images? It’s the boarding around the field! With AR technology different ads can be displayed on different feeds. This way advertisers will be able to target specific audiences in specific regions. For clubs and stadiums it is also good news as they will be able to maximize ad revenues.
7. Sports medicine
Sports medicine is a field where Augmented Reality can be very useful. Think of athletes wearing sensors and wearable tech, whose movements can be tracked by for example a hololens through which you can visualise what’s happening with the athlete’s joints and bones. By using this technique it will be possible to observe real time what’s happening with the movements of someone. If a player gets hit, you can analyse immediately what’s happening. If an athlete is rehabilitating after an injury, his movements and progress can be analysed.
With the overlays you can see what a bone or joint is doing and where improvements can be realised. Artanim is such a company that is developing such an app. Watch the video below and you will understand immediately what I mean.
8. The Venue/Stadium
The stadium experience is what is ultimately important to fans. They want to have that live immersive experience. However, with trends like VR (which resembles the live experience), live stats and social media apps, watching a sporting event at home is becoming ever more popular. In order to stay competitive, stadiums have to offer unique interactive experiences to make it worthwhile to come to the stadium. With tech savvy GenZ this will be an absolute necessity.
See also: How GenZ will change the world of sports
If not, you will be out, you will lose visitors! AR specifically lends itself to offer such experiences. What should you think of? Well basically everything! Consider the stadium as an enormous game console where you as a fan can decide what you want to experience. Do you want to have a picture taken with one of your heroes? Consider it done! Do you want to have your face painted in your team’s colours? It all can be done with AR and much more. Such as for example zooming in with your phone on a match day program and getting all kind of interactive experiences.
Then there is the game itself. Just aim your phone at the field and a new world is opening up, a world with data, inflatables etc. Your phone will truly be a treasure box. So far the AR experience in stadiums has largely been limited to apps on your phone, but not for much longer. Watch the Panasonic video below which gives you a peek into the future of live events. Ofcourse, it still is the future, but it will be there and it will be fun!
9. AR and gamification of sports
AR will be an important technology to gamify sports and make it an awful lot more of fun. Don’t you hate it to go to the gym and do your regular exercises! It’s boring as hell, at least for me. Gamifying would make it a lot more appealing as far as I am concerned. With your hololens or glasses all kind of games can be played, which will encourage you to go more often. Watch the video below. It is a good example of exercising in a fun way. And yes, it should move you gamers!
10. Sports Products
AR may soon make its mark in transforming a fan’s experience of real-world sports. Leading sports-wear manufacturer Nike has recently filed for a U.S. patent for AR aided golfing glasses. These glasses are wirelessly linked to a digital golf ball that helps you measure the trajectory, speed, distance traveled and the spin rate of the ball after it is hit. This is just one example of a sports product, which is coming to the market. But you can expect many more. The wearables market will grow significantly and I mean not only your ordinary watches. Particularly goggles and glasses will become common place. Expect swimmers, cyclists and joggers to be equipped with headgear soon.
Stores selling sporting products also will increasingly use AR. In fact some of them already do! Just point your phone at one of the products and immediately all information, colours etc will pop up, so you can decide what you want. You can stand in front of a mirror and see you wearing an item in all the different colour you want. Isn’t that fun!
You may realise by now what the impact of AR will be on sports. It’s enomous. It will be one of the main disrupting technologies around. If you have any comments, please share them! I would love to interact!