Google Glass And The NBA: A Slam Dunk Or An Airball?

It seems as if every day there is yet another news article touting the benefits of Google Glass in the workplace. As spin-control efforts go, this is a smart, calculated move on Google’s part, considering that the novelty of smart glasses might have already started to wear off. While Google’s Glass at Work initiative may ultimately unlock some interesting applications in certain vertical fields, particularly medicine and IT, the workplace that seems to be getting the most buzz lately when it comes to the implementation of Glass has been the NBA.

Earlier this year, the Sacramento Kings became the first professional sports franchise to announce its use of Google Glass, but it wasn’t long after that the Indiana Pacers and then the Orlando Magic jumped on the Google Glass bandwagon. Powered by a live-video-streaming technology created by San Francisco-based CrowdOptic, Google Glass on the basketball court promises an enhanced experience for sports fans, providing a real-time, in-game look at the action from the perspectives of players, cheerleaders, and announcers.

To be sure, seeing a “Through Glass” view of a slam dunk is neat stuff, but it still has the whiff of novelty rather than the feel of addressing a real, practical need for most sports fans. With sports stadiums and franchises increasingly concerned about attracting (and keeping) fans in arena seats, finding new and more engaging ways to connect them to the action on the court (or on the field) requires more than simply projecting players’ POV on the stadium Jumbotron.

In our ever-connected world, sports fans want more than to lean back and receive digitally enabled content, no matter how compelling it is. Interactivity and the ability to be a part of the action is the name of the game these days for connected fans, and they expect something in return for their engagement, whether it’s real-time responses or the ability to control their views of the game.

As a practical matter, though, Google Glass on the basketball court is still very much in the experimental stage. You have to wonder how a Glass-wearing player would respond to the jeers of Glass-wearing fans if the game wasn’t going so well. Talk about getting your head out of the game.

Still, wearable tech in sports shows potential, that is, if fans will get on board, too. Despite the enthusiasm of industry insiders and early adopters for wearable technologies, the public-at-large doesn’t yet seem convinced about the value proposition. According to a report from Harris Interactive, only 3% of U.S. Internet users say they currently own a wearable tech device. Perhaps more telling, 19% of survey respondents said they would never consider purchasing a wearable tech device.

For Google Glass-equipped NBA teams looking to connect with Google Glass-enabled fans, it may be a while before that pickup happens.

But Google is upping the ante on Glass: for a limited time today, the Glass Explorer Program is open to any U.S. resident who’s willing to fork over $1,500 for the privilege of becoming an early adopter. While it’s unlikely that most fans will jump at the chance, for a select few, their experience at the game might just get a little bit more up close and personal.

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