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Volume 23 No. 8
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AR problem may be solved in ‘dream it, do it’ decade

Virtual reality eyewear was on display at the CES convention in Las Vegas.
Photo: getty images
Virtual reality eyewear was on display at the CES convention in Las Vegas.
Photo: getty images
Virtual reality eyewear was on display at the CES convention in Las Vegas.
Photo: getty images

If you think that virtual reality’s failure to catch on means that altered-reality eyewear will never become ubiquitous among sports fans, you may want to think again.

 

A much different notion emerged from the annual CES convention in Las Vegas last week: Revolutionary eyewear is expected to be coming to the fan experience near you — just not tomorrow.

Right now, augmented reality and related technology remains ahead of the actual hardware, said Michael Davies, senior vice president of field and technical operations for Fox Sports. The race is on for a company to create eyewear with the ideal design, comfort level, size and price point to make it a necessity for sports fans.

The long-term vision is that once 5G — with its promised high bandwidth and low latency — is fully implemented, an experience so immersive for fans will be possible and desired, enabling them to wear non-cumbersome eyewear to enhance their viewing experience with AR displays, an overlay of advanced analytics and any data tailored to their preferences. In short, it will revolutionize how fans watch games at home or in the stadium.

“I was watching the [NFL playoffs] and trying to have a nice glass of wine with friends and my husband and I’m on my phone checking how old Tom Brady is and why he is throwing passes that people don’t catch,” said Alex Wallace, head of news, entertainment and studios for Verizon Media. “It should be in my glasses. Those are knowable facts. I want to watch a sports game with data. You don’t consume a single-screen experience. And your phone is not sociable and it’s not happening in a way I want it to happen.”

Wallace joked that VR has not taken off because “it’s bad for my hair any time I put on the ugly headset.” But Apple’s less clunky AR eyewear reportedly expected to be unveiled by 2023 could be a game-changer, “moving everything forward because Apple has the ability to make things desirable,” said Luke Ritchie, the head of XR and interactive arts for Nexus Studios. As long as four years ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook predicted that AR use will become as common as “eating three meals a day.”

“Imagine a pair of sunglasses that wrap closely to your eyes,” Ritchie said. “You could wear these things all day. You could have an immersive VR or AR experience. I don’t know if that’s what Apple will release, obviously, but it would be the holy grail.”

While Davies deemed this decade the age of “dream it and do it,” he noted that even some of the smallest glasses on the CES show floor did not look like something fans would want to wear for long periods of time. When the right eyewear is ultimately unveiled, he added, fans will want to put them on with ease instead of needing to “boot them up or worry about the battery or anything.”