News: ESPN, Fox Sports, & NBA's Clippers & Mavericks Draw Up Augmented Reality Plays to Win Over Fans

ESPN, Fox Sports, & NBA's Clippers & Mavericks Draw Up Augmented Reality Plays to Win Over Fans

Augmented reality is becoming a slam dunk for sports entertainment, as leagues, their teams, and their broadcast partners have been quick to adopt AR.

This obsession with the immersive space is particularly true when it comes to the NBA. The league itself has produced AR apps for iOS and Android as well as Magic Leap One, while TNT began integrating AR into its Inside the NBA show last season.

Three new AR experiences targeting NBA fans have sprung up as we enter a new season, with NBA's Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks, along with broadcasters ESPN and Fox Sports, adding new AR experiences to its promotional lineup.

Augmenting a Sports Talk Show

In its 16th season, ESPN's Around the Horn sports talk show moves to the network's New York Seaport District Studios and is revamping the entire look of the show, including integration of augmented reality into the broadcast.

Image by ESPN/Twitter

For those unfamiliar with the show's format, host Tony Reali moderates discussion between remote panelists, consisting of well-credentialed sports journalists, with each talking head appearing via video. Now, with the addition of augmented reality technology, those videos will surround Reali in the studio as floating windows that move and morph throughout the broadcast.

The show also undertakes a loose game show premise, and Reali will now be able to assign arbitrary points through a touchscreen interface as well as apply Snapchat-like AR effects to the participant's video feeds.

"Augmented reality is something we've wanted to try for years. A show with an impeccable scoring system and an immaculately wielded mute button just begs for that type of total immersion. The technology of this studio will take the video-game element of Around The Horn to the next level while also enhancing the debate and interplay of our panel," said Reali in a statement. "I'm also looking forward to the new touchscreen console and moving around a bit, which will add to the pace and energy of the show."

A product of the ESPN's Remote Production Operations unit, ESPN Creative Services Motion Graphics Design and the DCTI Technology group, the AR experience is made possible through Mo-Sys camera tracking technology and Vizrt rendering engines, along with computer-designed animations.

Clippers Bring AR to Live Game Broadcasts

Meanwhile, Fox Sports will bring real-time augmented reality enhancements to broadcasts of the Los Angeles Clippers games. Called Clippers CourtVision, Fox Sports will be able to superimpose real-time information and graphics on Clippers players via computer vision. Three modes will be available at launch, with Coach Mode shows play diagrams in real time, Player Mode displays shooting percentages, and Mascot Mode inserts playful animations and special effects.

Fittingly the experience is the brainchild of team chairman (and former Microsoft CEO) Steve Ballmer, who served as CEO of Microsoft when HoloLens prototyping began in 2012.

Image via Los Angeles Clippers

"It's long been a dream of mine to use technology to transform the sports-watching experience. Innovation is at my — and the Clippers' — core, and we're excited to redefine fans' expectations of what it means to watch sports through this revolutionary new broadcast technology," said Ballmer in a statement. "When I first bought the Clippers, I met with [CEO] Rajiv [Maheswaran] and his team at Second Spectrum. They understood what I thought might be possible, and were ultimately able to make it a reality. The real-time video visualization technology and big data capabilities we've designed to power Clippers CourtVision are incredible."

The broadcasts are available to Fox Sports Prime Ticket cable subscribers via the Fox Sports app for iOS and Android. (Good luck on authenticating your TV provider, though; I have been unable to unlock broadcasts with my YouTube TV credentials. But I digress.)

Image via Los Angeles Clippers

Mavs' AR Mural for Hometown Pride

And there's more. One of the Clipper's Western Conference rivals, the Dallas Mavericks, have installed a mural on the Downtown YMCA building (601 N. Akard in Dallas) that serves as a marker for an AR activation via Facebook's Spark AR platform and its image recognition capabilities.

After the mural is scanned, Mavs star Dennis Smith, Jr. jumps out of the mural and dunks on the goal painted on a nearby wall. The experience concludes with a plea to visit the team's website.

"We want our fans to be proud that we're the first team to do something this big with augmented reality. We are grateful to Groove Jones who helped us bring this experience to Dallas," said Jerome Elenez, CMO of the Dallas Mavericks in a statement.

Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

To see the AR experience for yourself, click the Facebook Camera Effects link and point your camera at the mural itself, viewable from the intersection of Field Street and Ross Avenue in Dallas, or the image of the mural embedded below.

Image via Dallas Mavericks
Cover image via Vimeo/SecondSpectrum

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