Jeff Chiu / The Associated Press

Google Glass glasses providing live feeds will be used tonight by Kings employees inside Sleep Train Arena.

Google Glass will give Kings fans a different look

Published: Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 - 11:07 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2014 - 7:26 pm

If all goes well with the Kings’ latest technological venture, the least relevant question about tonight’s game against the Indiana Pacers might be: How were your seats?

The Kings will outfit a handful of team personnel with Google Glass and broadcast live video taken with the futuristic glasses to fans in a variety of ways – on the video board inside Sleep Train Arena, over tonight’s local TV broadcast and across social media.

Among those wearing Google Glass – a sort of interactive computer that looks like a pair of eyeglasses – will be members of the Kings’ dance team, an announcer and mascot Slamson, a team spokesman said. All told, about a dozen of the glasses will be deployed to provide close-up and rarely seen views of the game and surrounding action.

Live feeds from the glasses will go to the Kings’ production crew, which will incorporate them into the in-arena and TV broadcasts in much the same way as instant replay. The Kings will be the first professional sports team to use Google Glass this way.

“It’s about giving fans a unique perspective,” Kings president Chris Granger said. “We’d like our fans to be able to experience what it’s like to run through the tunnel like a player, what it’s like to be near the player huddle like a sideline reporter is, what it’s like to be a Kings dancer on the court.”

That doesn’t mean fans will get a first-person glimpse of what it’s like to be DeMarcus Cousins throwing down a dunk – yet. Players will not wear the glasses during the game, though for a promotional video recently released by the Kings, several players wore them during pregame warmups and introductions.

Instead, Granger said, the idea is to give fans “a breadth of experiences” during the game as the glasses-wearers stand courtside or wind their way through the arena. Video from the glasses will be used to complement – not replace – traditional camera angles on the TV broadcast and will appear on the team’s website, team spokesman Lorenzo Butler said.

“The whole point is to get this action-level view of what’s going on,” said Jon Fisher, co-founder of San Francisco-based CrowdOptic, the company whose technology will be used to coordinate and package the different video feeds.

It’s one more way in which the Kings – and pro sports in general – are trying to harness technology to enhance fan experience. The Kings recently became the first pro team to accept the online currency Bitcoin. The Wall Street Journal reported that the NHL’s Washington Capitals last week began distributing Google Glass to select fans at home games, allowing them to watch replays and pull up statistics during the game.

CrowdOptic employed the same technology the Kings will use tonight at several Stanford athletic events in recent months. Kurt Svoboda, a Stanford athletics spokesman, said those included a basketball game and a football game at which non-athletes wore the glasses on the field, in the press box and in postgame interview sessions, with the video then shown in-venue.

“In basketball, the intimate setting of our court enabled fans to briefly look up from their seats and see a first-person vantage point of activities on the court,” Svoboda wrote in an email. “In football, we took the experience to multiple vantage points to give a full picture of everything that happens at Stanford Stadium.”

The Kings will have access to all video from the glasses, Fisher said. What his company’s technology does is quickly judge the quality of the different feeds while also recognizing the number of devices that are aimed at a particular point in the arena at a given time.

“So we give them a feed that shows the significance of what they’re seeing as well as the quality,” Fisher said. “Our systems package and make sense (of the different feeds) so they can use it in real time.”

While Google Glass is not yet available to the public, Fisher said he envisions a future where thousands of glasses-wearing fans packing an arena or stadium can provide “every conceivable angle of the action” during a game.

In another scenario, a person wearing the glasses could simply look at a player on-court and recognition technology would provide the fan with statistics and information about that player. Fisher said CrowdOptic introduced a version of that technology at a tennis tournament at Stanford several years ago using smartphones.

Granger said that while no other games are scheduled for Google Glass use, “I certainly expect this won’t be a one-time opportunity.” As the devices become more accessible, he said, the Kings may explore how they might be used to enhance the first-person experience of watching a game.

“Given what fans are looking at, how might they be fed with data that provides them with a different level of understanding of what’s happening on the court?” Granger said. “We think there’s great entertainment value that comes from the product. There’s certainly a data-driven analytical benefit. We’re just scratching the surface, so we’ll see how this evolves over time.”

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015.

Read more articles by Matt Kawahara

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