Disrupting the sports industry with augmented reality

Maria Stenina

Augmented reality technology is taking industries by storm. It is versatile, portable, and easy to deploy, making this tech infinitely adaptable for every sector. Let’s explore how the sports industry is already experiencing significant AR-led change.

Pioneering AR industry since 2008, Wikitude has established a leading position as a consumer and enterprise faced technology provider. This year marks the technology officially reaching its maturity and increased adoption speed across industries due to the global pandemic. 

PwC pre-pandemic forecast envisioned the XR sector to boost GDP globally by 2030 by up to $1.5 trillion. This claim still stands true. Adding to the impressive numbers, one of the major AR features is being portable and easily enabled through the personal devices. According to the ARtillry revenue forecast, there are currently almost 3 billion smartphones on the planet capable of supporting AR experiences. Thanks to hardware and 5G advancements, AR experiences become more immersive and elaborate, becoming a go-to tool to increase retention and boost customer engagement. 

So how AR disrupts the sports sector in particular? Read on to learn more.

AR in sports: theory and practice 

Within a couple of years, we saw a massive shift in the consumer and users’ perspective towards AR acceptance. These days with social media face filters and apps, this technology penetrates our daily lives and proves to have more value than the initial one-off “wow” effect. Sports fans and enthusiasts, in particular, seem to found precisely what they’ve been looking for. A technology that is easily accessible (be it their own home or stadium) sparks genuine emotion and helps to connect with their favorite teams and athletes in a new exciting way. Wikitude has been in the game for a decade, catering to the most renowned sports brands and agencies’ needs. 

From branded filters on social media to augmented sports apparel, multiplayer AR games, or 3D volumetric avatars of the favorite athlete practicing moves on your coffee table – augmented reality makes it possible.   

Campus AR by Balti Virtual

Augmented reality in sports: use cases to watch

One of the most powerful examples of using AR in sport on a large scale to date is the Wikitude-powered Globo Rio app, specially created for the Olympic Games in Rio. The app used Geo AR technology to act as an interactive Olympic Village guide. Using the augmented reality mode, visitors could quickly orient themselves among venues, discover statistics, matches, and follow live results. The app’s multifunctionality and ease of use proved essential for such a major sports event, resulting in over 100,000 installations in the first two days.

Before Rio, Wikitude has powered the official 2012 London Summer Olympics app, “Join In.” The app provided visitors to the Olympics with everything they would need to fully enjoy the games – from online scheduling to Geo AR navigation and social sharing. 

While Geo AR still stays one of the most demanded features, the industry sees the rise of other AR features, allowing high-quality 2D and 3D markerless and marker-based augmentations. 

Augmented reality is a powerful way for sports teams and their sponsors to engage with their fans wherever they are (which is unfortunately not in stadiums and arenas these days). From AR “photo ops” to mini-games, we’ve seen some of our most successful campaigns to date in the sports world.
Will Gee | CEO | Balti Virtual

Wikitude partner Balti Virtual studio specializes in ubiquitous AR sports experiences. The studio successfully uses the Wikitude SDK to augment a wide range of objects, printed materials (like “Tilt the Ice” augmented coasters created for Washington Capitals), and create stunning volumetric avatars.  

Washington Capitals Tilt the Ice by Balti Virtual

Augmented reality in sports coaching and training

AR can improve on-field decision-making and help eliminate the human factor when professionally assessing game results. The technology is capable of providing sports professionals with a better understanding of game analytics. The most common AR use case is a Hawk-eye system. Essentially a computer vision-based augmented reality solution; it is used in ball sports to help judges make fair decisions based on the real-time ball trajectory projection.

Training efficiency can also be improved with the help of augmented reality. Volumetric capture and 3D data visualization enable athletes to get a better overview of training sessions, enhancing performance and technique. Trainers tap into the AR potential to move from a paper bond field strategy to a digital one, where decisions could be made in real-time, thus drastically improving the game quality.

AR in betting, e-sport and fantasy sports

As the global pandemic completely disrupted the sports industry in 2020, the world has to get used to new social distancing rules. This, in turn, led to a significant rise of interest in the PokémonGo style outdoor AR games (think fantasy sports and scavenger hunts). Such games use geolocation to connect players in the nearest vicinity, adding virtual elements and bounties to the real world map and allows players to interact. AR sports are about to be added to the fantasy sports range, offering an inimitable monetizing opportunity yet to be capitalized. 

Another area where augmented reality creates additional value and increases engagement and retention is e-sports and sports betting. Hugely popular, these sport varieties benefit from digital overlays, visualization, and different advertising options for brands. Blockchain-based companies like Wikitude’s partner Socios use augmented reality with fan tokens to increase the members’ engagement. 

Sport AR with smart glasses

Lockdowns across the globe made people embrace technology and use it to compliment or even substitute live sports events. Within a couple of years, this steady habit of taping into AR, not just for one-off effect, but to get diverse content will be taken even further.  Wearables will play a significant role in how fans interact with sports in the future. With consumer smart glasses launching in the predictable future, sports fans can expect an increase in truly immersive experiences, that will leverage the engagement. 

Augmented reality in broadcasting

AR is truly versatile and works well live or on TV. Several TV channels are already successfully using technology to generate more traffic and enrich real-time coverage with digital content. As the sports broadcasting market is expected to reach $78.5 billion in revenue next year, advanced technologies like AR will significantly contribute to its growth.  Augmented reality turns classic broadcasting into an interactive show with embedded 3D graphics, real-time game analysis, and overlays that audiences across the globe can truly enjoy. 

Ready to create sports AR apps that can recognize, track and augment images, objects, scenes, geographical locations, and much more?

Request a free consultation to learn how our tools and AR features can help you create the solution you need to boost your sports offerings.

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