05 May 2015

How technology is changing sport

Technology developments have completely changed how we play, watch, and think about sport. Athletes are able to tune their performance to a greater degree than ever before, thanks to the data that can be collected as their train or compete. Audiences now have greater access to analysis, statistics and a living room experience that often exceeds the live atmosphere of the game. And competitions are benefitting from technology that is making decisions more fair, improve the flow of the game, and improve the quality of the fields of play themselves.

The viewing experience, for example, has been enhanced by camera technology that gives audiences better access to point-of-view footage through the game. Cricketers wear cameras in their helmets, while goal post cameras give audiences a view of the field from the field itself. HawkEye is now used in multiple sports to determine whether a contentious ball is out of play or not – it makes for good TV in giving viewers certainty, and makes the matches themselves fairer.

But this is just the start. Smart TV technology and apps are bringing the potential for additional overlays of information during a sport. Want to find statistics on your favourite players, but the commentary won’t stick them up? Samsung’s Smart TVs have jumped the gun as an early leader in this space, and will be able to relay that information to you, without needing to look away from the screen to your smartphone or computer. These televisions will also come with fantasy league apps built into them, meaning you can change your teams on the fly as you watch.

But where things get really exciting is in some of the advanced technologies that are hitting the market now. Augmented reality has become a massive tech opportunity since Facebook acquired Oculus Rift, and the potential for sport here is massive. Imagine being able to put the headset on and be placed in the middle of a sporting ground, with the game playing out around you.

Combine that with something like the Alert Shirt. This bit of technology is currently in development, but the basic idea of it is you’ll put it on, synch it up with the sport that you’re watching, and you’ll experience every hit as though it was happening to you. We’re sure it’ll be toned down a little since we’re not sure people will want to experience exactly what a footballer goes through in a tackle, but it’s exciting experiential tech nonetheless.

With wearables becoming the hot technology of 2015 it remains to be seen what people can do with smart watches, glasses, and the like to enhance the experience for the audience still further.

And it will be easier to follow your favourite sports in the future. Currently you’re at the mercy of whatever TV network paid for rights to the sport. Those of us without Foxtel, for example, suffered in that most of the Cricket World Cup was blocked. But increasingly sports organisations are taking responsibility for the broadcasting themselves, offering subscription and streaming services that allow people to watch the games independent of the TV network. For the less mainstream sports, this will become an especially attractive way of getting the sport to audiences when the TV networks won’t touch them.

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