What’s Ahead For Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality In 2018?

The first Sports Business Chronicle annual look at the trends/hot-button topics to follow for the next calendar year continues all week long and into next week, too. It’s a project I’ve done the past few years with Forbes and so I wanted to continue doing it with the still new company/website. I personally learn a lot about how the industry is moving forward. Hopefully, you will as well.

We kicked off things with esports on Monday, which included commentary from executives at the NBA 2K League, Twitch and Major League Gaming, among other gaming organizations. In addition, we published an article on ticketing and fielded insight from C-level professionals at Ticketmaster, SeatGeek and others.

For our next section, we looked at virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality. We asked professionals, what are the trends/hot-button topics you’re following around AR/VR/mixed reality, and what is your big, bold prediction for 2018? 

You’ll find that the two questions for most of these articles are similar — that’s on purpose. Participants could answer one or both questions and were limited to 100 words total (not 100 per question). Below are their emailed responses, which have been edited for brevity and clarity.

To follow the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #SBC2018.


Trends/predictions: AR will be a hot-button item of conversation. The sports business has been utilizing AR ever since the advent of the glowing puck, and while that concept has been pushed on television through things like the virtual strike zone and golf’s “flight track,” more and more augmented enhancements will be put on television. Many of the thoughts that we have thought initially about VR were incorrect — much of it having to do with the limitations of the CE currently available — but the notion of interactivity and social connection in its viewership is some things that have stuck and will evolve.

—  Michael Davies, Senior Vice President of Field and Technical Operations, FOX Sports 

Predictions: Two things, VR will start making its way out of the hype bubble pop/crash of 2017 — certain elite startups will start having some very good returns on VR with a steady (but not exponential) increase in hardware sales units. The other thing is the formation of an AR headset hype bubble. Between Magic Leap and what is now a leaked Apple AR headset probably releasing in late 2018 or 2019, the space will get frothy about Google-Glass-like products done right.

Andre Lorenceau, Founder/Chief Executive Officer, LiveLike 

Predictions: I’ve been waiting for this year to come since I got involved in VR/AR in 2009. 2018 is going to be a BIG year for AR. We will continue to see innovations in hardware and displays, but it’s more than just that. Our athlete training and fan experience initiatives will leverage data and AI and provide realistic interaction with AR that will enhance the users training/fan experience. This is going to be the “foundational year” where the companies that understand how to drive real value with this technology will be able to deliver the basic level of their offering that will serve as their foundation for years to come.

Brendan Reilly, Co-Founder/Chief Executive Officer, EON Sports VR 

Trends/topics: The biggest thing to watch in 2018 is the advancement of AR technology. Does Magic Leap release something that’s ready for primetime? Does something else pop up that no one is expecting? AR technology is very exciting and loaded with potential, but getting the form-factor right to the point where people (especially athletes, who are very fickle and routine-oriented) is a major challenge. It’s going to take some time. Prediction: Everyone is writing about how AR is right around the corner, but I’m not so sure. I predict that we won’t see any significant piece of hardware in the AR space in 2018.

— Derek Belch, Founder/Chief Executive Officer, STRIVR

Trends/topics: The biggest trend in our sports is summarized in two words: personal and immersive. Today’s fans have shorter attention spans and are expecting to have a conversation with media. This changing consumer behavior is now being matched with unprecedented technologies such as virtual reality and volumetric video allowing sports fans to have choice and control. In 2018, we’re going to see virtual reality experiences drive more meaningful engagements opening opportunities for advertisers to reach fans in unprecedented ways.

James Carwana, Vice President/General Manager, Intel True VR (Intel Sports Group)

Predictions: With Apple’s AR headset a poorly kept secret, AR will become a significant part of the digital offering from sport’s biggest brands in 2018. We’ve seen Bayern Munich and MLB create applications which not only gamify their brand but drive revenue. NBA and others have launched AR apps which focus on brand exposure and fan engagement. Merchandising will embrace AR over the next year. Sponsors have huge potential to get involved. Don’t forget about VR/360 degree — Juventus have jumped in with both feet. Look for VR/AR to merge as we head towards the mixed reality of the future.

—  Ben Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Laduma

Predictions: We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of the benefits of AR and VR learning. Imagine taking plays, schemes, alignments and more off of the page and into a more real interaction. Because players will learn spatially, and not just in two dimensions, understanding and retention will increase dramatically.

— Gordon Whitener, Co-Founder/Chairman, Mandt Media

About Mark J. Burns

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