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Not-quite-so augmented reality

July 27, 2009


Last night, Chelsea F.C., the single greatest and best football (soccer) team in the world (I have no bias) played an exhibition match at the Dallas Cowboys’ new 80,000+-seating  stadium, referred to as a futuristic “cocoon” by former player / ESPN talking head, Alexi Lalas. The stadium itself, as noted by other tech blogs, is just ridiculously nice. It’s got the world’s largest HD screen in it (180’x72′), a retractable roof, and air-conditioning for days like last night, where it went from 95°F and sunny to monsooning in minutes. The screen is just massive – placed like a super-sized version of the scoreboard in a basketball court, right in the middle of the stadium’s ceiling. Last night, to keep some of those in the crowd who may have not have been entirely enthralled with the game interested, there were all kinds of crazy ways of interacting with the jumbotron, such as using it as a big chatroom via text messages during half-time. A Scottish university is trying to take this kind interactivity at sports events to another level entirety.

The University of Glasgow science department is trying to create smartphone software that would allow fans at games to chat and share content during the game. They feel their software would be best for those who couldn’t get to sit together at the game. It could also be accessed by those who didn’t get to go the game, but still wanted to take part in the banter. The Glasgow researchers are adamant that they’re not trying to take anything away from the soccer games they’re testing their service on, saying “we are not trying to take away from the quality of the football match, we are trying to augment it”. This isn’t quite the level of British ingenuity we’ve seen so far this year in augmented reality, and it kind of feels like when I watch CNN and they tell me to follow their newscasters on Twitter. Upcoming technology doesn’t need to permeate every crack in society; sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. Live chatrooms maybe be alright for halftimes, but they don’t belong during the game. We might be in the 21st Century, but that doesn’t mean everything we did in the 20th was wrong. Just sit back and enjoy the game, because that’s what you’ve paid $100 to do – if you’re more interested in texting your buddies or trolling an ad-hoc chatroom than watching the game live, perhaps you should go work for ESPN, or give up that seat. And if it’s to a Chelsea game, you should be giving that seat to me.

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