The augmented live experience: Google Glass in the stadium

Curator's Note

When Facebook acquired the company that produces the virtual reality display Oculus Rift, Mark Zuckerberg gave, amongst others, the following reason for spending $2 billion: “Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game […] just by putting on goggles in your home.” It’s a perennial motif to introduce new media technology with the promise that sports can be experienced at home just as vividly (or even better) than in the stadium. The clip introducing the Google Glass App ‘Blue’ tackles the equation from the opposite direction and promises to augment the live experience by seamlessly layering game data and background knowledge into the perception of the actual game events – thus filling in missing information you expect to get when used to watch sports on TV.

If watched at home or in the stadium, sports easily lends itself to a discourse of perceptual augmentation. The somewhat nostalgic leanings of the song and the announcer’s voice underline that this advanced technology does not clash with the traditional values of baseball. And indeed, sports has always been a multimedia endeavor: Long before the second screens (and the jumbotrons) of our days, fans had newspapers or flyers to check the names of players or the standings of teams in the leagues; occasionally they brought transistor radios with them to augment the in-stadium experience with the simultaneous occurrences of an important match at another place.

Not least because of these multiplied media, sports has become one of the quintessential examples for the ambivalences of modern, mediated forms of attention early on (with Benjamin and Brecht as the maybe most famous authors discussing the issue): Experiencing a match in a stadium means both: being captivated by the at times thrilling, unpredictable performances and simultaneously being distracted by multiple appeals to the senses and by a more distanced analytical attitude. The Google glass app does not only promise to fuse the information you get on TV with the experience of the live event, it also explicitly counters the danger that you miss game events because of using your smart phone: “Blue brings you closer to the game without distracting you from it.” Adding to perimeter advertising, jumbotrons, cheerleaders, and music performances during intermissions, Google glass figures as yet another step in stadium entertainment’s sophisticated management of attention.

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