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On Augmenting Live Events

Chris Cameron May 12, 2011

Yesterday on the Layar Twitter account, we tweeted a link to a story on FastCompany about a new product called CrowdOptic and how augmented reality may “transform live events“.



CrowdOptic has raised some money to develop it’s unique concept that I think The Unofficial Apple Weblog describes well:



“Once the CrowdOptic system is installed at a concert or sports venue, the magic happens through triangulation. At least two people need to be pointing their iPhones at the same thing, at the same time, and the GPS location, compass direction and time of day will be used to figure out the most likely image being viewed and display information on exactly that. The accuracy is dependent upon how many people are looking at the same thing.”



A unique approach, indeed, but I was simply happy to see technology moving in this general direction.



As a sports fan, I’ve always thought augmented reality could work wonders on live sports and other events, but there are many challenges here. From my experience, phones are at times rendered useless in stadiums. More arenas are providing free wifi (whose bandwidth can get clogged) but others force phone-toting fans to rely on cell networks (which also get overloaded).



For live events to be augmented, a solution to connectivity problem is needed. Granted, not every venue suffers this problem, and smaller events could likely get around it. And it’s probably not even as widespread an issue as I may think. Regardless, solutions will come in time, just as the technology to provide more immersive experiences at live events will mature.



And as it does, just imagine the possibilities.



An example I’ve always loved is this video, which explores the possibility of a virtual offsides line during a football match. Simply hold up your phone and the line follows the further man back, turning green or red if the man is onside or not.



What if all the visual information available to TV viewers watching sports at home could appear before your eyes from your seat in the stadium, arena, gymnasium or ballpark? See that infamous yellow first-down line during a football game, or perhaps a projection of where a batter is most likely to hit the next pitch based on his past at-bats. Or see where the olympian in the swim meet or 500 meter dash is stacking up when compared to a world record holder.



If the massive display screens being erected at stadiums around the world say anything, it’s that team owners believe in-game entertainment is growing increasingly more important to fan retention.



As stadiums and sports leagues try to find ways to keep fans coming to see the events live rather than lounge comfortably on their big sofas in the air conditioned homes with 52” flatscreen TVs on the walls, perhaps it is augmented reality that will help usher the fans to their seats.



Image from CrowdOptic.

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