Did Sports Really Pave The Way For Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality was initially seen by the masses in the subtlest of ways.

As much as augmented reality (AR) is said to be early in its development and adoption, it has been surprisingly active within professional sports. That’s right, AR has been widely implemented across the NBA, NFL, and MLB, aiding sports fans across the globe the subtlest of fashion.

The masses may approach AR as if it is a technology of the future but we like to think of it as an innovation of the now. Take a second to learn about the history of AR because it dates back to 1968. Yet, it has flourished recently and we wanted to take a deeper look into how it ignited. To show you how augmented reality has been rolled out to millions of loyal sports fanatics, here’s how AR has and will continue to change the world of professional sports.

The NFL’s 1st and Ten Line

Augmented reality was initially seen by the masses in the subtlest of ways. The 1st and Ten Line computer system was first broadcast by Sportvision in 1998, casting the first virtual yellow first-down marker during a live NFL game. 

In the 2003 NFL season, Sportvision presented the first system capable of displaying the 1st & Ten line in video from the popular Skycam, the aerial camera that provides coverage from directly over the field.

In today’s age, the 1st & Ten Line has become a standard in every football telecast and a worldwide aid to audiences and broadcasters alike.

NBA Virtual 3-Point Highlight

The NBA may not be as technologically advanced as the NFL, but nonetheless, they are no stranger to innovation.

Just this January, the NBA and Virtual 3 rolled out AR technology to aid the broadcast viewers – much like the NFL has been able to do. With Virtual 3, the three-point arc is highlighted in red if a shot is attempted in range, if the shot goes in then the highlight will remain active until the other team gets possession of the ball.


In implementing such an advanced technology, it’s tough to make it work within the normal flow of gameplay without deterring viewers. The virtual three-point line isn’t too obtrusive, mainly because it matches the color theme of the team’s floor and immediately disappears if the shot attempt isn’t made.

In the 2016 playoffs, they’ve even added a VR experience for dynamic replays. Through a partnership with Intel, the NBA has been using 360 video to create replays of slam dunks and other worthy plays. The NBA is also teetering with the idea of live streaming games through Virtual Reality; it seems as if they’re adopting new technologies quickly. 

The MLB and the NHL have too sampled augmented reality to better their experience for viewers, although none have done it as seamlessly as the NFL and the NBA. Even though the first public uses of AR have been seen in sports, the future of augmented reality and sports is still early in its development. 

Virtual reality and augmented reality will undoubtedly have a huge impact with improving the skills of these players but they’re also set to further change how we watch sports in the near future. Soon the consumption of AR headsets will grow in adoption, then, the way we watch games will no longer be confined to our television screens.

As innovation continues to bleed more into sports, augmented reality is set to change how audiences watch and experience live gameplay.