Google co-founder Sergey Brin at the company's annual developer conference in San Francisco Wednesday morning with an enthralling demonstration of Google Glass, the company's ultra-intriguing wearable computer project.
In case you missed it, here's what happened: a team of skydivers logged into to a Google+ Hangout and jumped from a plane then of the Moscone Center where is being held. Via streaming video, viewers watched the descent from the jumpers' point of view in real time. As stunt bikers pedaled across the roof then rappelled down the side of the building and entered the conference hall, we saw all that from their eyes too.
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It all raised a fascinating question: What about "real" ? You know, football, basketball, baseball and the like. How could lightweight, POV cameras worn by players transform sports broadcasts? And how could products like worn by fans at events revolutionize the spectating experience?
Changing the Game
Instead of watching a television broadcast of a game, imagine watching it via streaming video and picking your vantage point from traditional wide angle shots to feed delivered via camera glasses worn by different players. This isn't as far-fetched as it may sound. TNT impressed NBA Playoff viewers with Overtime, a , and Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics tried to earlier this year. Baseball players wear shades all the time, so eyewear isn't necessarily considered too cumbersome.
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Google Glass's still somewhat mysterious augmented reality features would really kick in when the devices are placed on fans' heads -- although there's also the ethical conundrum of athletes being able to leverage information delivered by AR.
Eric Smallwood of the sports marketing agency described to us a scenario of fans sitting in the stands at a Major League Baseball stadium wearing glasses that project constantly updating pitch-by-pitch stats without forcing users to look away from the field of play. Augmented reality could also direct fans to nearby vending services.
"This would be a really unique opportunity," Smallwood said, cautioning that it's nowhere near practical today.
Would Leagues Do It?
Representatives from the and Major League Baseball did not respond to Mashable requests for comment. But reps from the , Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) did.
"In addition to using this type of technology for game telecasts, we could also use this type of tech as a teaching tool," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email. "For example, a coach could playback video to see what the player was seeing and help identify particular schemes."
A uniform, unobtrusive device (Google's glasses and similar gadgets will only become more svelte before anything like this actually happens) with augmented reality capabilities is a radical departure from the short-lived " " the NFL has experimented with for years.
Edward Muncey, the UFC's head of digital, said more rudimentary forms of Google Glass made by a company called have been used to already, and that the organization is looking to live stream footage from the devices soon.
The WWE's head of digital, Jason Hoch, said his organization was excited and intrigued by Wednesday's demonstration and "will definitely be keeping an eye on developments around Google Glass."
The Bottom Line
Of course, anything affecting a sports broadcast would have to get the go-ahed from broadcasters themselves and their advertising stakeholders. But here things get particularly interesting where 's concerned.
It's not unlikely that the majority of in-home sports consumption over the next decade will shift from traditional TV broadcast to streaming and web TV services, whether those services are operated by ESPN, Apple -- or . YouTube's partnership with NBC Universal for the 2012 Olympics is "just the beginning," Smallwood says.
Is it really so hard to imagine YouTube, which is of course owned by Google, gaining exclusive broadcast rights to a major sports league in the U.S. or Europe in the next decade? And if they do, doesn't it follow that Google Glass could be deeply integrated into that experience?
Sure, there are still plenty of variable and things to iron out: Google Glass's $1,500 price tag and how to navigate contact sports, for starters. But if the past few years in tech have taught us anything, it's that innovation is moving faster than ever.
In pro sports, as in the rest of the world, the future is wide open. And it may well include Google Glass.
What do you think? Is this the future of sports? Tell us in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable .
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