Ge13: USING AUGMENTED REALITY (AR) TO ENHANCE LIVE SPORT EXPERIENCES. AN EXPERT VIEW

Authors: A. Hilbrands, M. Hazen, J. Caniëls, D. Rompas, & E. van Poppel. Supervisor: M. Kovacs. Website edit: M. van Gisbergen
WHY

Attention duration for television broadcasts is declining (Newman, 2010). At the same time, viewers attention while watching television is scattered over more media and activities (multimedia usage). This provides challenges as well as chances for live sport broadcast experiences such as provided by Ziggo. One means to tap into these changing television behavior when watching sport, is the use of Augmented Reality (AR). Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that projects virtual imagery on real, physical objects. AR allows for someone to interact with things surrounding him in that specific situation. AR might connect to the shorter attention spans and divided media use. AR may introduce an interactive aspect to live sports which can enhance the experience and keep the viewer interested. Supporting results to further develop in AR comes from successful examples within Military aircraft usage of head-up displays (HUDs) and helmet-mounted sights (HMS) to superimpose vector graphics upon the pilot’s view of the real world (Van Krevelen & Poelman, 2010). But also due to successful developments within digital overlaying data/content within television live sport broadcasts. This is already happening and also seems to enhance experiences with viewers. For instance, when watching a game of ice hockey, digital television makes it possible to highlight the location of a hard to see hockey puck as it moves rapidly across the ice (Van Krevelen & Poelman, 2010). Moreover, the interest in using AR is widely stimulated by successful AR games like Pokémon GO, making it possible for smartphone users to catch their favorite Pokémon in their very own backyard (Kim, Hwang & Zo, 2016).

Some research has already been conducted on the usage of interactive AR techniques in combination with sports events. For instance an AR tool was created on the Tesseract API which is able to store and provide augmented information about players in any sports event. The Tesseract Application Programming Interface is used on Android and is based on recognizing player numbers on jerseys. When both the jersey number and the color are extracted, they then will be compared with a database, containing statistics about the particular player. Based on that it will for instance display the players name, team and other information (Bielli & Harris, 2015; Theis, 2014).

However, AR is in its early development stage, not much AR sport media content has been developed and research is lacking. Not being mainstream yet, AR also provides limitations for companies to be used (Van Krevelen & Poelman, 2010). In order to develop and use AR to enhance live sport media broadcasted experiences, more information on possible benefits and drawbacks is needed. In this research experts reflect on the possibilities and restrains based on past and future AR developments.

WHAT
  • Main question: can Augmented Reality (AR) enhance the experience of watching live sports events?
HOW
  • Method: Literature review + interviews with 5 experts
  • Design: 45 min interviews using interview guide
  • Participants: four experts (AR developer, Transmedia specialist, Media strategy)
RESULTS
Drawbacks:
  • Why remains unclear: (a) experience increase evidence and (b) measurements are needed: “We need an application that’s shows….yes that’s the reason why we need to do it!’ (Mathijs)
  • Technology demands: (a) need better vividness (a high-quality rendering of a virtual object). This is extremely important as it provides a clear and intuitive depiction and perception of information to the user; (b) accuracy: although also increased during the last couple of years, but still there are constrains when it comes to accurate tracking and overlaying of virtual objects with the real environment. “At this moment the hardware is not affordable or ready to use [for the mainstream audience]…the biggest limitation is just the speed of data when you watch sports and events, there is a 3 second delay …” (Martin). “Most of them [wearable AR) are still developer kits, which means huge clunky glasses or equipment/tools that are not consumer-friendly yet. In addition to that we have smartphones and most of them that are capable of displaying AR have it of such low quality in terms of the visuals and performance that it is not really at that magical spark yet to make it something that is truly ground-breaking” (Mathijs).
  • Complexity of use: (a) wearability issues, (b) comfort issues, (c) transportability issues. “I think a big limitation is wearability, so to be able to take it outside, do some things with it…there’s a lot of technology necessary to really display something…also people might be afraid of the camera’s in the wearables..” (Oscar).  “The fact you have to hold the thing in front of your face is a big limitation” (Tom). “The essence of AR is the transparency and that the watcher forgets they are using AR” (Martin).
  • Concerns: Privacy and data. “We see social acceptance issues, privacy concerns, and ethical concern arising with the future of augmented reality applications in the industry” (Carmigniani, 2011, p. 40). 
Opportunities:
  • Demand for AR based information: (a) interest (b) fun, (c) fast / easy  and (c) personalized opportunities when it concerns AR based information: “It would be cool that you simply hold up your phone with your camera and then you see like: Bam, 70% of the time Germany had the ball score pops up or whatever …without going through seven clicks…those endless replays of shots and corners and penalties…I do not care about that [in linear live sport watching].” (Mathijs). “It also provides you with more control over what you want to see” (Antony)
  • Television as the main medium for live sport experiences. It also opens opportunities to develop AR interactive advertising during live sports. “Sports fans will always use different media for differing reasons and situations, many of the online and mobile media services will remain add-ons for some time to come with regard to live sports watching.” (Boyle, 2014).
  • New information demands: (a) fast and (b) on the spot. “The use of internet for immediate access to information have taught them [new generation] that to expect immediate answers. This has made them less likely to accept delayed gratification in learning” (Barnes & Marateo, 2007).
  • New designs: more fashion based equipment. “The key benefit compared to my phone, is that I do not have to carry it”…but then it needs to look good” (Oscar)
Content:
  • The recommended content ranges form (a) hard fact (wearable) data to (b) experience content. and is aimed at enriching the sport content as well as accompanying advertising. “I think of …keeping track of athletes performance, measuring heart rate or something like that, you could display some of those things. But I also think there is quite a potential in adding the entertainment factor into sports. If we could mark a field, if we could mark an item that they’re holding, we could mask it with anything in terms of Augmented Reality. If we mark the football field, we could turn it into lava if we want….you could also see like a ghost runner, the record holder…we could see the audience or trainer…so I think in terms of entertainment there is also quite some value there (Oscar)”. “An AR social live sport game…people watching a soccer match and everyone in the room sees a pass that they should’ve made but didn’t. It would be quite cool to have a social media experience where everyone has game on there screen and when they pass they can press to where the ball should be played to.. (Tom). Yes talking with others while watching a game, when it is boring and exciting, is a huge thing and opportunity for AR” (Martin)

 

RECOMMENDATION

AR seems worthwhile and a promising technology to invest in. However it is too soon to be used to reach large audiences. Main reasons: (a) limited reach, (b) demanding usage and (c) technology not good enough yet. However, it is expected that the AR technology will reach a stage of seamless and effortless (wearable) usage with personalized content and design which will enhance the live sport experience. So to obtain a first mover advantage, experimenting in development seems fruitful.