As part of my daily job, I strategize with media and entertainment companies around the world about how to offer video content in ways that keep consumers engaged. So you can imagine how my mind goes into overdrive when I watch great video content like the Olympics, and think about the possibilities of what it will be like to watch the Olympics in the future.
The Olympics are by far my favorite thing to binge watch. Seriously, I do it all. Live, streamed, on-demand. Sports I would never think twice about watching any other time. Stats on athletes I’ve never heard of. I even stream the small events live – the ones that don’t even have a commentator. Just an athlete giving their best for their country, their sport and the crowd on hand.
Even though I can do all of those things today, I know that how we can engage with the Olympics now is only the gateway to what’s to come for the future of sports viewing, interactivity and fandom.
The 2016 Olympics has offered us more ways to watch and engage with the events than ever before. For example, Comcast will offer nearly 6,000 hours of coverage, across live and on-demand content. Comcast says that it’s coverage on its X1 platform will provide “a real glimpse at the future of television,” offering global sports fans the ability to watch almost any event and learn more about their favorite athletes with interactive features.
What Comcast is doing with its blend of experiences is a key milestone in the industry’s evolution – it represents a new tipping point where we can truly see the blending of streaming, on-demand, linear TV and apps that bring everything together.
So what could possibly be next? Enter augmented reality.
When I think about the experience that all of us will have as we watch the 2024 Olympics and what it might be like, I imagine the Olympics as a combination of physical and digital together. Fast forward yourself to the games eight years from now. First of all, forget about the living room TV as your primary screen. Immersing yourself in the augmented reality world, you’ll be able to wear a device that allows you to size your experience to a 10″ or even a 100″ screen in front of you.
Your view of the action could come from helicopter height, or standing on the field, the track, or in the pool next to the athletes. Pick your angles, zoom in or out, pick players to follow around the field – the experience will be yours to choose and change as you go.
Instead of today’s 30-second vignettes on a specific athlete, why not visit their hometown through virtual reality with an overlay of their key stats and their bio? You can replay their greatest moments, regardless of if they happened last night or four years ago.
Want to get a better feel for how fast a swimmer is actually going? Try out the view from a 360-degree experience, in 3D, with ultra high-definition picture and sound quality. Who knows. By then we may have Smellivision widgets that allow us to take in the chlorine smell of the pool as if we were there.
And, consider how augmented reality might change the games themselves. Will we see augmented reality become part of the competition? Today, there are augmented reality drone races with sponsors and real competitors flying physical drones through a virtual course. Eight years from now, do we see the inclusion of games that blend the physical and the virtual, introducing a new breed of competition and competitor? (My personal vote is for hoverboard races!)
As you tune into the Olympics or any number of fall season sports, try an app alongside your viewing experience. The app today is the stepping stone to the augmented reality experience of the future, and the use of apps to compliment the sports-watching experience is growing.
Sports leagues and networks like ESPN and Fox Sports are enhancing their direct-to-consumer and companion apps to offer overlays, stats and scores to try and make the broadcast even more informative, and before long, even more personalized. Pay-TV providers are extending their traditional set-top box infrastructure to include specialized apps that can be more interactive on the TV. Premium sports networks are introducing their own apps so that fans can get up-to-the-minute information on their favorite players and teams.
So as you binge on the last week of the Olympics coverage, watch it all – streaming, live, on-demand, through the apps; and maybe for a moment or two, you’ll wish you were there in the crowd cheering for the athletes from your country or even the refugees competing for no country at all – just the love of the sport. As you have that moment, consider what the world of augmented reality will offer us by the games in 2024. It could well be the experience that makes us truly feel like we’re right there, alongside the athletes, without ever having to leave home.
Kent Steffen is the president of global content strategy for CSG International.
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