(SportTechie)– Imagine watching LeBron James dunk up close via a 90-inch television that’s hanging 10 feet from your seat on the couch. Now imagine if you could watch seven other NBA games on big screens at the same time without having to cover your wall with flat screens.
A new augmented reality headset from a company called ThirdEye Gen Inc. that seeks to change the way people consume sports is set to be unveiled next month at the Consumer Electronics Show.
During a sneak peek at the company’s headquarters in earlier this month, ThirdEye president Nick Cherukuri showed SportTechie how the X1 Smart Glasses, which run on Android, might be adapted for the sports industry in a way that could enhance the fan experience.
Something that Cherukuri says separates ThirdEye’s glasses from others is the wide 45-degree diagonal field of view, which he said is the equivalent to watching a 90-inch high-definition screen from a distance of ten feet. That’s significantly wider than, say, Google Glass, which had a 10-degree field of view and wasn’t designed for the long-term consumption of augmented reality content.
The headset is currently set up to support multiple games in play simultaneously. A glance up, down, left or right, for example, might reveal seven additional big screens alongside the primary one in the user’s direct field of view. The experience has capacity for as many as 16 screens if the user is willing to rotate the body 360 degrees. The multiple screens might also be used to supplement the primary game with interactive statistics, which is something that leagues, such as the NFL, and companies from Sportradar to Twitch, have been experimenting with to enhance the viewing experience.
“We’re taking everything on your phone and bringing it up to your face,” said Cherukuri. “When you wear this you get a digital screen in front of you, and just by rotating your head you get eight matches.”
A similar experience was recently teased by Magic Leap.
Games can be accessed on X1 through any website url (think NFL RedZone) or Facebook live stream via a Wi-Fi connection, as well as any app that runs on Android (think Amazon Prime). ThirdEye also has a third-party developer’s kit for native apps that can be built specifically for the X1.
Powering the headset is a replaceable battery that can last for an NFL game (with a battery life of five to eight hours depending on use — five if there’s constant video use). Since it’s replaceable and rechargeable, users can swap out new batteries without having to take the headset out of play.
So far, most of ThirdEye’s sports partnerships have been with commercial companies and have been early stage or experimental in nature. The U.S. Tennis Association, for example, uses ThirdEye technology to enhance visits to its Florida campus by displaying multiple matches at once and providing data overlays to campus tours.
But Cherukuri suspects that the list of sports clients and range of use cases for the glasses will expand once ThirdEye officially unveils the headset at CES and begins shipments in February and March. Perhaps, for example, a league or team might offer glasses to VIPs at events so they receive interactive player statistics while watching live, or produce content that immerses fans through the first-person perspectives of NFL quarterbacks via a helmet-based camera, F1 drivers and Olympic downhill skiers.
Another idea is using X1 to provide visual coaching or tutoring to athletes on the road, which would take advantage of its point-of-view software that lets one person stream live and annotated point-of-view video with audio to another user.
While Cherukuri suspects it’ll be a few more years until prices come down enough to make it attractive for regular at-home use, he hopes clients overlook the clunky hardware (ThirdEye is aiming to reduce the size of X1 by 30 percent with every new iteration) and focus on the potential for increased sports viewership.