When you think of augmented reality, one of the first things that pop into your head is likely catching digital monsters that miraculously appear on the real-world street in front of you.
While video games like these brought augmented reality into the mainstream, sports are now getting into the market, turning stadiums into interactive spaces where fans can become part of the event.
Let’s take a trip into the mixed-media world of augmented reality and see how it is changing the game for major league sports.
The History of Augmented Reality and Sports
Sports broadcasts were one of the first uses of augmented reality. The yard line marker in football games is a digital projection.
While it does not conform to our modern ideas of augmented reality — those phone filters we use or the little monsters we catch on the sidewalk — it certainly meets the definition.
But what if you do not know what augmented reality is? AR is a computer-generated image overlayed over the real world, creating a composite view of both mediums. It is a powerful technology used by major industries to enhance their brand.
Today, this is most commonly done through your phone screen, but any digital display can create an augmented reality experience.
Augmented reality has seen been a significant boon to eCommerce industries. Allowing consumers to interact with products before purchasing them has expanded how we can reach an audience.
You might have used many of these options without realizing they were considered augmented reality. If you have tried on a pair of glasses by overlaying them on a picture of your face, then you have used AR.
On the other hand, augmented reality has not seen as much use in the entertainment space. While video games have made the most use of augmented reality, different mediums can utilize this technology to great benefit.
The Versatility of AR
It is a versatile tool with endless uses, as evidenced by the impressive enhancements we have seen in professional sports.
Back to sporting events, broadcasts have employed many other uses of augmented reality.
Further uses of AR have been prevalent throughout the years of televised sporting events as the technology has grown. Broadcasts have expanded on the concept and used a wide variety of overlays.
Player names and statistics, arrows displayed on the screen to highlight player movement, and other cues highlighting essential parts of the field are all examples of augmented reality; however, many more are used regularly.
Many uses of augmented reality in sports broadcasts are limited to instant replays and cannot be implemented in real-time. This lack of functionality can hinder the user experience.
More advanced augmented reality tech may expand upon this idea and allow various uses.
Modern Implementations of Augmented Reality in Sports
Remember when sporting seasons were canceled while we all stayed home? When players returned to empty stadiums, sports leagues utilized AR to fill the gap and make the stadiums seem (at least partially) full.
The effect was not always great, but it was an excellent example of how augmented reality has begun to change how teams view their stadiums. Now that people can re-enter stadiums, we are seeing new uses for augmented reality experiences.
Make augmented reality easy with a simple user interface and teams that know how to provide outstanding services.
Some implementations of AR affect not only the stadium but also the sports themselves. Augmented reality uses include:
- Using augmented reality to turn team mascots into living creatures.
- Photo booths allow people to take pictures with the players.
- AR screens that put fans into exclusive areas of the park or event.
- Real-time stats and pop-ups about the game.
- Health tracking for players.
- Visual guidance to amenities or seats with digital maps and arrows.
New AR Implementation
Before all of the innovations listed previously, augmented reality was typically limited to home users watching from their TVs. Users in the stadium were left out or could experience it only on whatever screens were in the park.
Take, for example, what the Carolina Panthers did to bring their mascot to life. It was a great moment, but one that the fans in the audience could not experience the same way as the audience at home.
New augmented reality uses in sports attempt to bridge this gap by giving the stadium audience a unique experience they can’t get from home.
With the ease of watching live sports at home, as well as all of the AR benefits you get on your TV screen, it is a necessity that stadiums do more to bring guests into the park. Augmented reality does precisely that by providing entertainment experiences that can only be enjoyed at the park.
Fans in the stadium provide huge revenues, upwards of 600 million dollars, depending on the team, and this is just for the NFL. As learned from the pandemic, the NFL could lose up to 38% of its total revenue if no fans are in the stadium.
The stadium experience is a significant chunk of income for any sports league, and augmented reality can ensure that there is a way to bring fans back and keep them coming back for these exclusive events.
The Future of Augmented Reality for Stadiums
As we discussed, stadiums must continue innovating to bring in guests. Just as they made the user experience at home more convenient, sports can now bring those same benefits to users in the park thanks to advances in augmented reality.
Using their phones, guests within the park can receive the same advantages as audience members at home. But their phones may also allow for unique benefits only applicable inside the stadium.
One park is already in the beginning stages of utilizing such an experience. Read on to find out what they plan for their guests and how you can do the same.
Target Field and Augmented Reality Stadium Games
The Minnesota Twins announced in 2022 that Target Field would become home to a new augmented reality system. Sporting events are prone to downtime. It is bound to happen that fans will be interacting with their phones in these moments.
To increase engagement and maintain the same excitement and interaction the fans have when significant moments are happening on the field, the Minnesota Twins have turned to augmented reality.
Fans will be able to turn the field into a digital game and compete with each other for high scores. Fans might be on their phones, but now they will be using them to interact with the stadium and fellow fans in new ways.
The uniqueness of this concept comes from the interaction between fans. Most augmented reality experiences cannot be shared.
The majority of AR games are insular and revolve around one player; after all, it is difficult for multiple people to interact with one phone. But utilizing augmented reality games in an athletic stadium setting seeks to emulate the shared experience of competition.
Adding augmented reality games to a major sports stadium allows fans to interact with the game and each other in ways never thought of before.
Target Field is going this route; others can join them by utilizing robust augmented reality entertainment services. Interactive mascots are just the beginning, while making an entire field a playable game is the ultimate in sporting events.
Making a Stadium an Augmented Reality Paradise
Augmented reality has plenty of other benefits besides attracting more guests. It can allow for tailored ads to different guests and audience members. The users find less intrusive ads, and stadiums can broaden their advertising base.
These enhancements brought on by augmented reality all serve to transform the stadium experience. Fans are used to the usual grind, the wait inherent with the stadium experience. Most would rather avoid waiting in line for food or bathrooms to see an event live.
It is not worth the price and hassle when you can get the same thing from home but with AR to improve your viewing.
With augmented reality, teams can transform their stadiums into a place the fans want to be and can’t miss out on. The future of sporting events will revolve around expecting guests to watch the game and participate.
Augmented reality can help anyone bring that joy to their fans. With the help of AR, turn a sporting event into more than just a game, but a complete adventure.
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Here at Illumix, we specialize in building dynamic AR experiences that can enhance your brand. We've done the heavy lifting already. Contact us to learn how we can help.
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Here’s the tech behind the Carolina Panthers’ giant AR cat | The Verge
How Mixed and Augmented Reality Are Becoming Viable In | Venue Options
Massive augmented reality planned for Target Field | Ballpark Digest
The Stadium Revenue Each NFL Team Will Lose if Games are Played Without Fans | Forbes