If you didn’t turn in early to the Super Bowl you likely missed one of the most fascinating ads. This ad was a showcase of how Microsoft’s Hololens, which is in developer preview, could be used to transform TV watching. Unlike Google Glass which shines an image into your eye and provides a semi-transparent overlay Hololens is designed to fully alter what you see and hear so that you could put yourself in the position of quarterback, receiver, line, center, referee, or in the best seats in the stadium which could dynamically change based on the action. In fact the only thing you’ll miss is the long lines to the bathroom, the local weather, and the questionable food. Oh and the really high price of a ticket though, I expect, the NFL will find a way to make that revenue up.
Let’s talk about how Hololens could change sports today.
Hololens was created with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory primarily for Mars exploration. Its design was to link scientists with images scanned by the Mars rover in a realistic way so they could explore Mars as if they were actually there. Granted latency was at epic levels because it takes a long time from an image to get from Mars to earth and the rover scans an area over time and not all at once. But given things don’t change that much real time (as far as we know there are no Martians dodging the cameras to mess with our heads) the simulation is far closer to reality than any alternative short of actually going to the place (and the air fare is rather restrictive).
But even though this was developed to place the viewer in the action, so to speak, you can see from the video Microsoft is largely showcasing it as a way to just be a bit more flexible in our viewing habits. That is typically how new technology enters the market, first it emulates then people figure out that the old limitations no longer apply.
Second Step To God Mode
So the first step is a display where ever you want a display but once we figure out that the physical limitation of a display no longer makes sense suddenly we can get really creative. If we can alter what we see and hear what do we need a physical or virtual display for in the first place? You are simply in the game and you can fly.
Rather than turning on the game why not fly from your home to the game at very high speed? You can then swoop down into the game and actually follow the ball if you want (granted you might want to watch the motion sickness). You want to watch the cheerleaders or be a cheerleader both are options. You can change their uniforms or let your imagination role free. You can change the colors of the football players or… Ok I’m now trying to get that image out of my head. OK, you could change the sex of the football players… Suddenly football could be a ton more interesting for both sexes.
But taking this even farther you could have Orcs battling Elves, or small dragons battling zombies and add blood effects while the actual players could basically be so covered in protective gear they’d be walking tanks. This would give the visual excitement of a fight to the death but no one actually gets hurt in the event.
Of course at some point the need for actual physical players goes away and that’s piss off the unions but you could see that long before we got there we could alter all kinds of games to make them far more interesting. Rather than NASCAR cars how about land speeders from Star Wars or instead of human runners dinosaurs from Jurassic Park? Instead of car engines you’d have rocket engines or screaming animals this is backed up by the reality of the actual race but what you see is anything but real, it just looks real.
Now you could easily blend computer games with actual games. The computer takes the captured stats from the actual game and factors them into the team you’re playing against and into your own players. Now, real time, you are not just playing the Panthers you are playing them as they actually are during the Super Bowl with a team that has the same actual stats as the Broncos. You could enter the game at any time or adjust for the actual plays and see if you can make better calls real time than the couches do.
Wrapping Up: Will Reality Matter?
At some future point reality my not even matter. That is the future of something like the Hololens because what you are currently seeing is far from what this technology will become. Years in the future you may just plug the device into your head and it will interface directly with your brain and, in the interim time, it will get smaller, lighter, more powerful, and less expensive because that is the nature of technology. But with this one, we are at the very beginning of its evolution and since we are talking about something that initially takes over what we see and hear, and later, could take over what we smell, touch, and even taste, let your imagination roam and think about how amazing it would be if was could change our reality.
Hololens isn’t the end, it is the beginning of something wonderful.