Augmented Reality In Sports: Blurring The Lines Between Video Games And Real Life

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AR might be the newest way for fans to feel even more connected to their favorite sports.

The putting interface in “Rory McIlroy: PGA Tour.” Photo via

Sports and technology are two industries that have intersected quite a bit through the years. With the rise of analytics and game preparation, teams and players are utilizing the newest tech to find an edge over the competition. Whether that is through virtual reality or analytics, the industry is constantly evolving.

Recently, the game of golf has been invigorated through young talent taking the sport by storm. Jordan Speith, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas (among others) are making the game fun for viewers and players alike. Through their documentation of two spring break adventures on Snapchat but also their laser focus on the course, players of all ages are wanting to emulate them.

Golf fans who have played the popular video game “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” or now, “Rory McIlroy PGA Tour” are familiar with the interface when setting up for a putt. The player you control is standing above the ball and you see a grid on the green with various lines showing the slope and speed. There is also a line showing the ball path when it is hit.

Now picture this: you’re on the practice green lining up for a putt and you see the break of the ball before you even hit it. Sounds too good to be true, right? Thanks to Viewlicity GmbH’s PuttView this is can be a reality.

At a recent European Tour event the Hamburg-based company showcased it’s outdoor version (there is an indoor version as well) of the augmented reality product. According to SportTechie, PuttView focuses on putting practice enabling players to visualize the ideal ball path and see relevant practice information. While players cannot necessarily use the device on the actual course, the goal is to improve putting performance.

In addition to seeing a virtual putting line, players can also see various information such as distance from the hole. By wearing an augmented reality headset, the information comes to life. For PuttView indoor, no glasses are required. Instead, an animated light path is projected onto the putting surface.

Augmented reality has burst on the scene recently. Last summer, the popular mobile game “Pokemon Go” is a prime example of AR. Through a user’s phone camera, a player would see Pokemon in the “real world” and have to capture them. The app was so popular that many times the servers would crash due to the large number of users on it or trying to sign up.

Example of Pokemon Go. Photo via GameSpot.

Focusing on the implementation of augmented reality in sports is pretty exciting, especially from a branding and sponsorship perspective. With the rise of virtual reality as a preparation tool in sports, augmented reality can take it a step further. SPOILER ALERT: In a recent episode of the HBO hit “Ballers,” The Rock’s character, Spencer Strasmore, uses a virtual reality headset to sell casino mogul Wayne Hastings Jr. on the idea of a NFL stadium in Las Vegas. With the use of AR, stadiums can show potential sponsors what their signage would look like or even what different activations throughout the concourse could be.

FOX Sports has been using augmented reality to enhance NFL broadcasts. Photo via engadget.

Augmented reality is not uncharted territory in sports. FOX Sports has been utilizing the technology during its NFL broadcasts to show different graphics that enhance the viewing experience. As video games become more and more realistic, it seems that the lines between virtual and real life are becoming blurred. As technology advances and its use becomes more widespread throughout the sports industry, the arms race to become the most innovative organization/league/player, etc. continues to push on as well.

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

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