What if you could watch a basketball game literally anywhere? The NBA wants to make that happen by partnering with augmented reality startup Magic Leap to create AR glasses that allow people to watch virtual basketball. The NBA, Magic Leap and broadcast partner Turner recently announced the partnership at Recode's Code Media conference in California.
Users will be able to watch classic games and highlights on the glasses. However, at launch, live games are not supported. There will be multiple screens projected into the real world which users can pin to walls (similar to Microsoft's HoloLens). Theoretically, one could watch a game while watching stats or social media updates at the same time on two different screens.
Former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal showed off the glasses at the Code Media conference and seemed to come away impressed. “When I went to Magic Leap, I watched a full court game right here,” said Shaq gesturing towards an empty space beside him. “Lebron was right here. Then I went over here and watched Orlando play the LA Lakers.”
The glasses themselves appear to be a version of the "creator edition" glasses that Magic Leap unveiled in December. The Magic Leap One kit comes with the glasses, a handheld controller and a circular external processor called a Lightpack.
The rise of Internet streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu and even streaming cable services like PlayStation Vue, Sling TV and DirecTV Now have impacted traditional TV viewing habits. According to Nielsen, all four major networks have seen primetime viewership drop.
Naturally, major sports brands such as the NBA want to stay on top of emerging and trending technologies in order to compete and maintain their core viewers. “When new technologies come out, it seems like they rarely totally replace the technologies that preceded them,” said NBA SVP of global media distribution Jeff Marsilio. “That was true from radio to TV, and TV to the Internet. People continue to watch and they just watch in more places.”
The joint Magic Leap/NBA augmented reality glasses are scheduled to be released in 2018 and although pricing has yet to be revealed, Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz hinted that they would cost around the same price as a high end smartphone or tablet.