Attempts to get you back into the stadiums by bringing your TV with you

Imagine watching an All Blacks game from the grandstands at Eden Park, while your smartphone beams up real-time displays, right before your eyes.

Think of combining the incredible interactive experience of augmented reality (AR) games like Pokemon Go with the live action of a big match.

That’s the goal of a new project that could forever change the way we experience sports.

Twenty-five years after Dunedin’s Animation Research brought America’s Cup viewers the world’s first real-time graphics in a sporting event, the space is changing rapidly.

Fans watching games at home are now treated to a banquet of flashy digital displays, making matches much more of an experience than they once were.

Those who have paid for a seat in the stands, however, miss out on the best of the visuals.

Dr Stefanie Zollmann, a former Animation Research visual computing expert now based at Otago University, wants to change that.

She and fellow researchers will draw on new technologies like AR so details like scoring, penalties, team statistics and player information can be shown before spectators – even tailored to where they’re sitting in a stadium.

How will it be done?

The approach makes use of hardware that we already have – our smartphones.

“Spectators already bring their own devices and use them often extensively during events for social media, capturing photos and also for accessing information about the current event,” Zollmann said.

“Our project focuses on how to provide augmented reality content on the mobile phones of those spectators.”

While the main concept had already been mapped out, Otago researchers would be teaming up with international experts to solve some of the biggest challenges.

One was gaining an accurate, fast estimation of the users’ phones positioning and viewing direction within the venue.

Another was providing visualisation techniques adapted for small devices, and which could be used amid the dynamic environment of a stadium.

For promoters, such technology gave them something new to draw punters away from living rooms and pubs.

Some of us have sat in stadiums watching the cricket while listening to it on the radio.  You really do get more enjoyment when you have other people that analyse what is going on.

But will a smartphone showing real-time stats get people back from warm, social places with large glasses full of cold bubbles and decent food?   Where they have a number of replays of every critical moment?

Augmented reality is certainly an interesting area for smartphones to head next.  And it will be welcomed by many, including my own ‘multi-screening’ nutbars among the commenters.

But I would like to see how people standing on the terraces getting rained on while having one or both hands freezing off because they are holding their phone is going to make a big difference to people coming back to the game.

I wish them well though.


– NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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