Augmented Reality goes prime time! Thanks ESPN!

September 09 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future
Category: Social Media   Year: 2014   Rating: 7 Hot

Add sports media to the list of early technology adopter companies alongside the military and porn industries!

ESPN and Electronic Arts have joined forces around the ‘Virtual Playbook’ to shake up the world of broadcast media by launching a new era of immersive mass media experiences.

In recent years sports based games have pushed the evolution of 3D experiences, but now ESPN is bringing football analysis into the era of 3D Augmented Reality. This Fall, ESPN commentators will interact live with realistic 3D virtual NFL players. They will stand next to life sized scale 3D players as they demonstrate based offensive and defensive patterns.

Gamers are obviously thrilled and NFL viewers are likely to become bigger fans of sports commentators able to navigate a virtual landscape of players.

Now that we are witnessing the first mass media application of augmented reality, it becomes easier to build a futures road map looking at the convergence of drivers that support augmented mass media experiences.

We can see clear developmental lines of commercialization with 3D software (ray trace rendering, 3D authoring etc.), hardware (terahertz chips and video servers) and display technology (thin film, flexible OLEDs and high def projection systems) and interface standards (gesture, smart object and motion based interactions).

Thanks to ESPN, we have now jumped to major hurdles – viable business models around convergence of 3D software, gaming and virtual world companies with broadcast media. And the biggest barrier with the most uncertainty – People! Specifically mainstream TV viewers.

Entrepreneurs can now start imagining the unique applications. When might students use augmented reality to create reports – immersing themselves in history scenes or building cities? When might kids insert themselves inside a Dora the Explorer adventure? Or aspiring athletes play the world champions in an immersive experience that makes Wii tennis look like 8 bit pong? When might technicians and engineers use augmented reality to work collaboratively long distance? Could Home Depot or our plumber walk us step by step through the bathroom project?!

The list of mainstream applications is exhaustive. And the convergence of technologies is within sight. There is no need to overstate and ‘hype’ augmented reality, or bow to naysayer skeptics of tech adoption. Augmented reality is much more appealing and functional than a pure virtual world experience. And it could give a boost to TV broadcasters desperate to stay relevant.

3, 5, 7 or 10 years is not too far off for mainstream applications at work and home! But how do we get there?

What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality mixes real live video with live layers of dynamic 3D digital (virtual) objects and avatars (people).

It is ‘blue screen’ technology pushed to the limit. But we need to understand the landscape in order to describe this roadmap to the future.

Software The software to create 3D objects (e.g. Google Sketch up) gets closer to mainstream use every year. And within a decade mainstream users are likely to create 3D objects and their own home augmented reality media just as they create their own media portfolios today using cheap or free software tools and digital cameras. Soon we might find it just as easy to create a realistic looking 3D object as we do a word document or edit home video.

Hardware Augmented reality requires a different ecosystem of hardware from immersive screens (e.g. OLEDs) that are flexible and as thin as a few sheets of paper – or high definition projection systems.

Beyond the need to tap the incredible processing power of terahertz chips, we’ll also need to see advances in sensor technology that enablers cheaper gesture and motion-based interfaces with content on our display screen. Sensors are also important for embedding ‘smart’ functionality into objects like a football, yoga mat, chess piece, or paint brush.

Convergence of Video and Virtual Worlds Virtual worlds are exploding, but mainstream adoption of pure virtual experiences remains elusive. It still intimidates many people. Video is exploding on the web but also needs more time to see wider adoption.

But it is only a matter of time before the majority of human to human communication over the web migrates to video, and 3D environments become more appealing. Why would Grandma send her granddaughter an email when a video message or video chat works seamlessly?

The ESPN-EA Virtual Playbook brings an even further out future concept onto our radar- the convergence of video and virtual landscapes.

We are at the point where ‘video web experiences’ and ‘3D web worlds’ are walking steadily up the slope of enlightenment.

Add layers of realistic looking virtual objects to video and we can easily imagine Grandma actually playing with her granddaughter – throwing around virtual ball or drawing together? Or two friends playing chess – or teaching each other how to prepare a meal.

Enterprise systems could support technicians working on an engineering challenge together while standing on two difference continents.

Augmented reality: Turning video into a social space

The good news is that augmented reality is not a pure virtual world experience so we do not have to answer to skeptics about mainstream adoption. It is less intimidating because you are using the familiar ‘real world’ as the foundation of the experience.

Add a layer of 3D to video interfaces and we can collaboratively play, learn, and work around a common ‘video social space’- and that is a huge draw for mainstream applications.

Video as a social space is about using the screen as a sandbox and interface for touching the same objects, writing on the same ‘board’, sending things in motion that can be ’stopped’ by the person on the other end.

Seamless integration of real and virtual is strange. But it is coming soon to a television screen near you!

Comment Thread (2 Responses)

  1. Great, informative post!

    I am excited about augmented reality in entertainment and perhaps education, but I wonder how wide its scope will be. I am not sure a child will prefer playing with an avatar of Grandma or visa versa. I think they will want to see each other in person because that is the only way to really bond. Also, there are many times when sending or posting text is just the fastest most effective way to send information. I don’t think there will ever be a time when “majority of human to human communication over the web migrates to video.”

    Posted by: Mielle Sullivan   September 10, 2008
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  2. Calling this “augmented reality” is a stretch. Something you watch on TV is not a reality. And there is nothing new about mixing live, or not so live, video with all kinds of stuff. It’s called special effects.

    Posted by: johnfrink   September 11, 2008
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