Augmented Reality is still a gimmick, but it has the potential to transform the matchday experience

Last week we saw League One football club Blackpool bring their matchday programme to life using Augmented Reality. Now the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL are the latest club to take an interest in the technology.

The Vikings’ Playbook magazine featured an AR message from linebacker Anthony Barr, in an attempt to bring the matchday programme to life as fans in the stadium were treated to a novel use of the technology this weekend.

It throws up the question, though, of just how far can this go?

So far, the most notable ventures into this field are from the Vikings and Blackpool, and so it’s hard to consider this a spate or a breakthrough. It’s also unclear just what long term fan engagement value that this might have. After all, we’re only talking about a short message for the fans who can be bothered to actually get out their phones and use the AR technology available. When the novelty wears off, what will fans get out of it.

That’s the point of such emerging technologies, though, they can still be anything, and the idea of adding AR to a matchday programme is that it brings an old media staple into the modern world. It has the potential to make the programme relevant again.

But it remains to be seen if there’s a type of content that can be produced in this way which will actually end up being relevant, beyond the novelty of having an AR programme. Will the programme of the future include highlights or videos of interviews? If so, will they be content pieces that fans can’t get anywhere else? Or will they include opposition previews or interviews with rival fans? Again, if so, that’s content which will need to be consumed before the game, and when you’re in a stadium with bad signal or if it’s loud, watching videos may be nigh on impossible.

Advances in stadium technology such as good Wi-Fi connections for fans will help in this area, but for now this technology does feel to be in its infancy. Soon though, we’ll need someone to come up with a use for this type of AR technology which actually adds value to fans. Sport can still feel like a relic of a bygone era at times. Going into a stadium means missing out on a lot of the enhancements you get when sitting at home: you miss out on stats and the social media engagement.

But it’s great to see technology used in a way which engages fans and brings something to the matchday experience that is unique to going to the ground. And if AR can provide that, then fans will be incentivised to actually attend games – and for the clubs, that can only be a great thing.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 420 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and a regular contributor to Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan91

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