Google Glass presents an absurd number of possibilities for spectator and participation sports

When the iPad first came out, I didn't want to take mine out in public. Now, I didn't get it at launch or anything like that, probably a month or two later. But even so I didn't want to be that guy out in public using a piece of technology that at the time was some luxury nerd device—one that many didn't see the purpose of, beyond just "something different." 

Imagine what it's going to be like when Google Glass hits the streets. This isn't something you just pull out of your bag in a coffee shop either; you, presumably, wear these all the time. At least when you're not too self-conscious. The thing is, while I may have been skeptical at first, they (or a Google Glass-like device) may shake up the world even more-so than the iPad, possibly much more.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, or can't remember because these were mentioned a long time ago, here's a look at the Google Glass launch video. More of a hypothetical than a demo, but you get the ideo: visual/contextual data right in front of you.

Now, time for some brainstorming. How could these be used in the world of sports? We'll split them up into two categories. And, we're only being semi-realistic. Some of this may be years off, or not possible for whatever reason. But I'm just going to have fun with it.

Spectator sports

Universal: these could be applied to every sport mentioned below.

  • Instant replay. It would be awesome if Google Glass could loop me in on the television feed, but at the very least it should be able to show me what I just saw:
     
  • Where's my seat? Whether arriving for the first time or returning from grabbing that 7th-inning-last-call beer, sometimes it'd be nice to have something to point me in the right direction, possibly a little waypoint arrow on top of it?
  • And, of course, stats. I should be able to look at a guy or say his a name and have his basic stats appear right in front of me.

Baseball

  • Pitch trajectory. When watching on MLB Gamecast, it will show something like what you see below, the path of the ball laid out horizontally. Imagine if, while sitting in the box seats, you could switch something on and see each pitch traced. How much would you appreciate that Clayton Kershaw 12-6 then?
  • K zone. Same premise as before, but whether overlaid on my vision or flashing in my periph, I want to see whether that outside fastball actually caught a piece of the plate.
  • Batted ball spray chart. How cool would it be, to be sitting at a game, make a voice command and then see—actually see—how a guy's been hitting over the last two weeks? Each ball he's put in play, mapped out on the field. The same would also be great for that reliever they're bringing out of the pen you've never heard of—what type of contactact have guys been making off of him? Imagine, this on the field, maybe even with each ball's trajectory traced through the air.

Football

  • Tell me this wouldn't be nice at the stadium.
  • This would be years out, but what if Google Glass's camera and software could not only place graphics on the field, but also track the action and diagram the play? It'd be nice.
  • Of course, fantasy points. Whether at the game or watching on TV, I want my team's (and my opponent's team's) points laid out in front of me.

Basketball

  • Like the batted balls spray chart I mentioned for baseball, it would be phenomenal to be sitting at a game and have a guy's night mapped out in front of me on the floor.

    Or maybe you're looking more for tendencies than performance. Imagine something like the New York Times beautiful season-long shot chart laid out right in front of you, on the floor of AmericanAirlines Arena.
  • It's worth noting that the NBA is starting to experimenting with player-tracking cameras. Not only could you see where they're taking shots, but also the situations they're taking them in. Where does Kevin Durant get his open looks? Oh.

    Again, this would all be laid out for you, right on the actual NBA court you're looking at. Could be amazing.

Hockey

  • It's worth noting that they have shot charts too. Could be right on the ice.
  • Maybe?

    FoxTrax, most ridiculous piece of broadcasting technology in the history of sports?

Participation sports

Forget about competitive balance. Where you say "that takes the fun out of it," I say "Yeah, you're probably right. But it could be used as a training tool."

Golf

  • Lots of opportunity here as you already see something similar with the classic range-finder but what if you could track the distance to every obstacle, or mark where your ball would land, wind factored in, if you hit your longest straight drive of the day. Or what if, before each round, you went out on the range and hit three balls with each club and calibrated your glasses for the day? I could use it.
  • Putt preview. Tiger Woods Golf fans know what I'm talking about. Show me the line I have to hit and I'll do my best.
  • Just this grid and distance would be nice too:
  • What about just  tracer-tracking your ball like a videogame, and highlighting potentially-lost balls after they land? God, that would save me a world of trouble.

Skiing/snowboarding

  • That Tiger Woods contour-highlighting putting grid would also come in quite handy in situations when visibility or lighting is poor. My knees would appreciate not having to absorb all those unexpected and unseen bumps.
  • Virtual trailmap. Show me the easiest way down, or the hardest. How do I get to the right lodge again? 
  • Or, sync it up with the mountain's ski report—and add in lift line monitoring—to make my day at the mountain as enjoyable as possible.

Fishing (Warning: I don't fish)

  • If it isn't already readily-apparent, show me the pockets of slow-moving water—just the right place to land that fly.
  • For that matter, remind me again how to tie the type of fly I should be using in this part of Montana.
  • If possible, sync it up with my onboard fish-finder to show me where exactly I should aim my cast.

Hunting/shooting (I don't do this either)

  • Highlighting clays, flying birds or potential targets moving in the brush would be a world of help.
  • Once it tracks that target, Google Glass could also help a hunter hit it. How far away is it? How's the wind blowing? Based on that information, where on the target should I aim?
  • Also, Google Glass could potentially estimate the size and weight of an animal, making sure it's within regulations.

Bowling

  • Like everything else on here that has a score, Google Glass could always have that in front of you. On top of that, it could also display the layout of the pins remaining if you can't tell whether or not there's one or two lurking beyond the pins up front.
  • Like other things mentioned here, it could also show you where to aim, especially when picking up that crucial split.

This probably isn't even three percent into the number of ways this could be applied to participation sports.


I once joked on Twitter that Wu Tang Clan's "C.R.E.A.M." is now "D.R.E.A.M.": developers rule everything around me. Google—or whoever nails down this technology first—is going to have quite a product to work with, but if they don't draw developers to their product then they have nothing. Google Glass presents a truly unbelievable canvass for developers and companies.

We talk so much now about sports fans can enjoy games just as much (if not more) at home in front of their magnificently gigantic HD TVs. Well, Google Glass has the potential to change all that—to change the sports industry dramatically. We are a long ways from seeing some of the things I mention above but the opportunity is certainly there for developers, and the companies who support them, to take advantage of it.

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