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.

NBA League Pass Mobile: a review

Before I launch into this, let me say the fact that technology like this even exists blows my mind. NBA games are being broadcast from arenas all over the country to my phone. Live. Maybe I'm more impressed than other sports fans but I've told almost everyone I cross paths with about this straight-out-of-2035 technology. I know, I know, it's been around since the beginning of the season. But this weekend it was free.

There's two reasons I decided to give this app (I'm on an iPhone) a try now. One is that I live on the West coast (Seattle) so if I do anything between work and home (the gym) I miss all of the East coast games. Sure, I can catch the recorded version but they show me the score as I pick the game and it's just not the same.. The second reason is that this app had previously been $40 and I already own League Pass Broadband. I couldn't justify spending $180 on NBA games. This weekend it was free and afterwards will be just $20.

While this app, and the concept, are for the most part amazing, there are a few flaws worth noting.

First off, it's pretty basic and about what you'd expect. You get all the live games that aren't blacked out in your area. So, anything that's on TV in some form—ESPN, TNT, NBATV or a regional broadcast—will not be played on your phone. This is kind of a bummer but you'll get used to it. Anyway, the features offered via navigation are 'Live', 'Replay', 'Schedule' 'Highlights' and 'More' (Standings and other random info). All are about what they sound like. It's worth noting that with 'Replay' you don't get the games shortly after they end and it doesn't appear as though you get all of them. As I write this late on Saturday night I only have access to three games from Friday's action. Somewhat disappointing but that's not really the meat of this application. That, of course, is the live games.

I'll be completely honest, this review is based on my experience with one game. But it's the situation where I'd use it the most, which is while on the treadmill at the gym. I fired this this application up once I had everything else set and chose the Cavs-Thunder game. Quite the matchup. I was not using WiFi and instead accessing the game over a 3G connection. Definitely not ideal but, like I said, this was the situation in which I'd be using it the most.

My initial reaction when the video came up and things got going was that I had some trouble tracking the ball. It wasn't necessarily the video quality, which wasn't perfect but still sufficient and about what I'd expect for content being streamed to my phone over a data network, but more-so the size of the screen and the content being displayed on it. The Cavs were wearing their ugly Knicks-colored throwbacks and the ball at times 'hid' in the darker unis while being slightly easier to track on the Thunder whites. This didn't make things impossible to enjoy but it was was still a minor annoyance. It's worth noting that I do have terrible eyesight and was running at the time. The experience may not be the same for you. It is, however, better via WiFi, as I tested out a replay once I got home.

The video quality, however, was not my biggest qualm with the app. My biggest complaint is that the program would randomly cut out and take me back to the game selection screen. From there, I'd have to touch the game, wait for it to buffer and then get going again. This process took between 10 and 15 seconds. However, I came into this game with about 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter and had this happen more than ten times. Not a huge issue but it'd be better if it frose for a second and then came back to live action. So, as this is happening over and over I'm convinced the game will come down to a crucial game-winning shot and has the guy lifts off the ground I'll be kicked back to the game selection screen.

Sure enough, with 20 seconds and the Cavs down 2 LeBron gets an outlet pass and goes screaming downcourt. The Thunder collapse on LeBron leaving Boobie Gibson wide open. LeBron dishes to Gibson, Gibson rises and————————————. That's right, booted. I quickly picked the game again and came back to see the crowd roaring and catch the replays (screenshot up top). This was the last time I was dropped so I did get to see LeBron's ridiculous swat on Durant's attempted game-tying shot but it was still frustrating to miss the go-ahead bucket. Sidenote: game highlights.

While the fact that the connectivity isn't quite what it could be, it's somewhat expected with technology that's being tested for the first time. Also, while not quite seeing the ball sometimes and possibly getting booted at others may be minor pain points, I will be purchasing this app for $20 once the free trial comes to an end. If you have an iPhone (or other applicable device) and have the opportunity to use this on a near-daily basis I advise you to do the same because watching games live on your phone certainly is that amazing.

The NBA's policy on social media is pointless

It was announced today that Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings will be fined $7,500 by the NBA for violating the league's social media policy. Jennings updated his Twitter feed immediately following a win over the Portland Trailblazers. The NBA's policy states that players, their representatives, and team personnel are banned from social media activity during games as well as 45 minutes before and after.

Here's the tweet that got Brandon in trouble:

Really. That's it. Jennings was excited his young team was off to a great start and wanted to publicly congratulate them. From a fan's perspective, it's very cool to see. We get the vibe of the locker room and hear in his own words how thrilled he is. How does the NBA react to this positive PR? They fine him half a Honda Civic.

This is ridiculous. An NBA policy on social media, and Twitter especially, is unnecessary. As most know, updating Twitter isn't complicated. It's sending a text. I assume most coaches and teams have policies in place on when athletes are allowed to use their phone. Limiting players from using social media has zero impact on their play, attitude, anything. They're already texting. Unless the NBA is doing this purely for selfish reasons—which would be wrong in the first place—then there's no reason at all.

NBA: Let the players Tweet, you're only hurting yourself by not doing so.

Is the NBA's jump in ratings caused by Twitter?

The NBA opened its schedule on TNT to its highest rated opening night in the last 26 years; the question now is why? Is it because of the NBA’s presence on Twitter and in other social media—unmatched by any other professional sports league—has brought in completely new fans? Close, but not exactly right.

While its been swirling in the consciences of many, I first saw this question asked by Nate Jones of Goodwin Sports. The specific question asked to his Twitter followers: “ do you guys think that the increased interaction on social media by NBA is helping with ratings?” From there, the responses varied, but one that jumped out at me was Chriss Littmann’s: “Unlikely. People who took the time to find NBA players/teams on social media were probably already fans.” Littman does work on blogs and other social media for sportingnews.com.

It would’ve been fun to embrace the notion that more people are watching the NBA simply because Shaq, Dwight Howard and others are keeping everyone up-to-date with their daily actions and occasionally interacting with their fans. While Jones does point out that Howard has received several comments indicating that there are those who wouldn’t be fans of his or basketball if it weren’t for his presence on Twitter. However, it isn’t reasonable to assume these people are going to sit down and watch a full basketball game or even enjoy what the league has to offer for an extended period of time.

In a post on his blog, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban comes close to hitting it exactly.

Every type of content has some quotient of participation value...At the top of the scale are games/shows/movies/events that potential viewers have predicted to have high participation value.  These are events that we look forward to not only watching or attending, but that we plan in advance how we are going to extend our participation.  We may plan on tweeting about it or posting a facebook update because we know our friends are there and we are bragging to each other, while at the same time showing off to friends who cant be there. Think going to the opening of Cowboys stadium, or going to a concert or opening night of a movie, or watching the big game.

Cuban strays a bit and states that “You may watch a Magic game just to be able to tweet to Dwight Howard what you saw while watching the game.” If you’re doing this, you’re delusional. Dwight Howard does just about as good a job of any professional athlete when it comes to interacting with fans but the odds of you being one of the miniscule number of people he does get a chance to reply to are slim.

Before I go any further, let me state that I have never been an NBA diehard. I was a huge fan of Jordan’s Bulls in the 90s and have always been well-versed in the sport—knew the best teams, players etc. while being sure to tune-in for the playoffs—but I never would’ve considered myself an absolute fanatic of the league as a whole. My city, Seattle, lost its NBA team and when they were here I went to less than five games a season. However, this season I purchased NBA League Pass and am attempting to watch as many games as possible.

I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for the amount of NBA discussion on Twitter. However, this isn’t caused by likes of Dwight Howards and Shaquille O’Neal. It’s people like Nate Jones and Chris Littmann, Bethlehem Shoasl, J.E. Skeets and Russ Bengtson.

I’ve been on Twitter for a couple years but it wasn’t until last year’s Finals that I realized its value to a sports fan. I created a ‘Sports’ column on Tweetdeck comprised of the most insightful sports fans, bloggers and writers I could find and followed that as I watched the games. Much better than relying on Tirico, Van Gundy and Breen alone for analysis. On top of that, the analysis isn’t one way. I can reply and interact with these writers as well as other fans.

This is how the NBA has gained in popularity via social media. The players and their interaction with fans certainly has a hand in it, but more credit goes to the ongoing discussion amongst the league’s outstanding writers and fans. The line between writers and fans is blurring. This isn’t due to an increase in biases amongst writers, but more fans being knowledgeable on the league and sharing their opinions by way of social media.

These fans, writers and even the athletes to an extent have created an online environment where casual basketball fans are transforming into hoops enthusiasts. Good news for TNT and the NBA.

Tags: ,