From gaming to surgery, augmented reality (AR) has a transformational potential. Using AR means putting an extra layer of information over real-life objects to help users understand more about their surrounding environment. It is an idea that was made highly popular by sci-fi movies and is now becoming a part of daily life.
Introducing augmented reality to sports software development brings new ways of enjoying the game for spectators, innovative training opportunities, and more judging accuracy. It also provides excellent opportunities, like real-time marketing, for all businesses involved in the sports world.
In the following sections, we will focus on current use cases and future developments of augmented reality in sports.
Fair judging with AR
Regardless of how well-intentioned sports judges are, the human capacities are limited, and disputes could arise following controversial moments in a game. Using AR on the field for decision making could eliminate human errors and preserve fair play.
One system already in use for tennis tournaments is Hawk-Eye, an app that recreates the ball trajectory to assist judges in their decisions. This app can also be used by fans to test their skills in comparison with world-class players.
Immersive experience for fans
Any game played without the energy and support of fans is meaningless. From a business perspective, fans’ engagement is the driving force behind the economic success of teams and athletes. Therefore, keeping fans entertained and wanting more is a focal point in any team’s strategy. Augmented reality can offer fans a more personalized and immersive experience.
One way of using AR in sports is to turn a fan’s smartphone into a comprehensive informative tool. The MLB app for baseball replaces player cards with live statistics when the phone is pointed at the player. PGA Tour AR offers fans the opportunity to project a golf course on any flat surface and watch the game from a different viewpoint.
Augmented reality is already present in most social platforms as filters. Teams and sporting events only need to develop their fan filters using a tool like AR Fan Cam. People love taking and sharing these pictures on social media, thus offering free promotion for the event, venue, or team among their peers.
Sports marketing with an AR twist
TV commercials and players’ t-shirts displaying sponsors’ brands can get an upgrade through AR. Its interactive nature makes AR an excellent fit for capturing attention and inviting to one-on-one interaction.
AR technology sometimes requires collecting personal data to function. This is why it can become a gateway to less intrusive marketing. For example, you could offer the possibility to send an AR-enhanced item to their e-mail address, while saving it in the process with their consent.
Upgraded fitness tools
AR can boost workout by replacing the dull screens of fitness gear with more exciting visuals. For example, when using a stationary bike, the user can see real-world landscapes as if they are cycling in nature, with just a pair of AR glasses.
The same glasses could be used for personalized training. An AR-enhanced software can take on the role of a personal fitness advisor. The screen would display the exercises as well as real-time statistics and motivational messages with gamification elements.
Enhanced training experience
Video is extensively used by coaches to replay and analyze players’ and competing teams’ techniques as well as show best practices. Yet, it is not interactive.
With the help of a 3D camera that can record every movement of a player, the footage can then get an AR layer describing technique and possible corrections. Using AR in this way means that players can practice without the constant supervision of their coaches. This can also be a standalone product for anyone who wants to learn and practice a new sport but can’t afford a personal coach.
Such apps already exist on the market. For example, the DribbleUp Soccer app comes with a special ball that records the player’s moves and compares them to a virtual trainer and gives feedback.
TV and broadcasting
Some TV stations already use AR to overlay their artwork on top of the footage, but it can be more than that. It can be used for creating an immersive experience for the viewer. For example, the replays can be enhanced with the trajectories or comparisons with similar game situations from the past. Such contextual data transforms a simple game into an experience and creates more opportunities to engage fans.
Probably the first AR sporting platform was Wii Sports released by Nintendo in 2006, which was a hit, demonstrating people’s appetite for such entertainment.
New platforms have emerged, including the Japanese HADO. In this game played with an AR set consisting of glasses and a wrist sensor, you throw a magic fireball at your opponent who has to protect themselves with a virtual shield. The game unfolds in a mixed reality of virtual graphical elements and players’ real movements.
Augmented reality is an excellent tool for judges striving to make fair decisions and for fans who want to experience games in new ways. It can be a marketing tool that enhances fans’ loyalty to a team, or a way to make advertising more fun and less static.
It can be a useful training add-on that gives coaches more time to focus on strategy instead of overseeing repetitive training.
To wrap it up, augmented reality is a technology that can revolutionize the sports industry in a variety of ways. We can expect to see more of it in the next years, and it’s safe to assume that it will become a mandatory ingredient to provide accuracy and relevance in sports.