Sports Technology Is On the Starting Blocks of a New Revolution
Let’s imagine a trip to see a live sports event in the not very distant future.
Say, a football stadium and let’s call it Norwich City.
Smartphones will direct spectators to their seats. The stadium itself will know everybody’s food and drink preferences already. Queues at cashless food outlets and stands will be monitored and transmitted to a control base.
Replays and close-ups will abound on phones, tablets, multiple strategically placed screens.
All this is a level of responsiveness and connectivity as yet unseen.
Does it make you wonder why you need the live experience at all when you could enjoy most of it at home with several screens around you?
Look to the States
A stadium being built in California for the San Francisco 49ers with the help of Sony in what is labelled a ‘customizable opt-in experience.’
Commentary on this is available from Sean Madden on Wired ((10 March 2014).
He also directs attention to the steps that the New York Mets’ Citi Field play and their in-venue positioning.
Starting to Get Creepy?
Madden refers to Disney’s RFID-equipped Magic Band system where Cliff Kuang last year described how over the past four years, the Walt Disney Company has been ‘engaged in a secretive effort to redesign the Disney World experience.’
He says – ‘It’ll go like this: You buy your ticket online and plan all the details of your visit. Then you’ll get a wristband in the mail, which will be a passport to the experience that you’ve curated. Snug around your wrist, the so-called MagicBand will use radio frequency to communicate with sensors around the park, all orchestrated by software that effectively turns Disney World into a computer interface. You can enter the park by holding your hand up to a kiosk; you can arrive at shows with 30 seconds to spare, having already reserved your seats; you can jump onto rides you’ve selected at preselected times without waiting in long lines; you can buy anything you want with a wave. An It’s a Small World character could call you by name and wish you happy birthday. So could Mickey, who can also greet you at a preselected meeting time. This is all in the service of fun, of course, but it is also a glimpse of the future: an integrated experience, a smooth hybrid of real-world and digital interactions.’
Madden argues that Magic Band not only allows users to unlock hotel rooms, pay for meals and souvenirs, and track where they’ve been … but also enables Disney characters to greet kids by name and much more.
He says that ‘this kind of personalization works in places like Disney World and, to a lesser degree, sports stadiums, because both are controlled, contained, seemingly safe environments. We enter them knowing we’ve sacrificed a certain amount of privacy in exchange for a unique experience. In a different context, these same experiences could become deeply creepy — imagine a random hot-dog vendor addressing you by name as you walk down a street in Manhattan. Foursquare already proactively pushes passive recommendations to users’ smartphones, creating what may be a piece of magic that lives in your pocket. For others, though, the experience is simply jarring.’
So the point is are we happy to accept all this development and is there anything can be done if we are not?
Design versus Ethics
Assuredly there is nothing we can do. It is a trade-off between visual/sensual entertainment experience and manipulation/control/handing over data.
Madden concludes that ‘This is why the time has come for interaction designers to get very intentional, not just in how data is guarded, but in how it is collected and what it is used for. If we’re not careful, the future could resemble the scarier parts of Minority Report, where roving droids scan our irises and force non-stop customized ads upon us. Avoiding that future — while embracing the benefits of a seamless experience without violating trust — is just as much a design problem as an ethical one.’
So happy outings to the theatre, sports arena, theme park in the future
Before you go, have a look at:
Some People Have Seen the Future: It’s a Legal Minefield, 26 November 2013
The Power of the Image to Amaze On Screen or On the Floor, 2 October 2013
Is the Fantasy of the Smartphone Getting Silly Now? 12 June 2013
Sports and Technology, 14 February 2012