Chris Kluwe: How augmented reality will change sports … and build empathy


Chris Kluwe is a retired American football punter.


Augmented reality will happen in our lives, and will change the world as much as the internet. Google glass is the first step in this, and we can use the vision from this to experience what other people see – for example on a football field. We can start to feel what it is like to be tackled by seeing from the perspective of a footballer. People want to feel this – to know what it is like to be their favourite footballer during a game.

The next step from Google Glass is Oculus Rift – virtual reality. (note: this gives separate images to each eye – effectively 3D images) This will increase our immersion, and allow us to experience sports with the next level again from a single static video.

After that is augmented reality – the first example is to display information about the next play on the players’ helmet visor. This will help teams to win – they don’t need to memorise their role in a play, and can simply execute it and react to the play around them. Another way to use it is to give the players real time tactical information – to scan the field and tell the quarterback there is an open player blitzing just outside his field of vision. If the ball flies wide, the receiver can see where it will land and react faster than if he had to estimate. The IT department’s ability to process this data and display it to the players in a useful way will become as powerful as the scouts and managers hiring the players themselves.

In addition to making the plays more precise, the fans will see the game from every perspective. People want this, it is just too profitable and powerful not to happen.

But can augmented reality be used for more than sports? Can it build empathy – by letting us walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? Teachers could use it to show a bully what his victims feel, a persecuted minority can show what their life is like. Augmented reality is coming, but the questions we ask, the choices we make and the challenges we take are up to us.

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