Pacers Fans On Board With Google Glass

Pacers Fans On Board With Google Glass

by Rick Limpert for Pacers.com | @RickRoswell

April 27, 2014

Editor’s Note: Rick Limpert is an Atlanta-based sports technology writer. His works have been featured in numerous print and online publications. He also hosts the popular "Wireless Wednesday" tech segment on The Game in Atlanta and "Tech Tuesday" on PGA TOUR Radio. Follow him on Twitter @RickRoswell.

Indiana Pacers fans can't help themselves.

The occasional glances up at the 50-foot dual 1080p HD video screens that stretch almost the length of the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse have become more frequent. While every seat in the Fieldhouse gives a great view of the action on the court, a perspective never seen before at an NBA is from time-to-time available on those massive video screens.

The reason is Google Glass.

The Pacers debuted the use of Google Glass on March 26, in a home game against the Miami Heat, and even though the use of the high tech goggles is still a work in progress, Pacer fans are not only "taking to" and embracing what the Google Glass can offer; they are anticipating the next cool thing they will witness on the big screens in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

"This is the first time I'm seeing it in use," said B.C. Brunstrom, a Pacers fan from Michigan that was keeping his eyes glued to the big screen during Game 2 of the Pacers first round playoff series, when it was pointed out that some of the shots were coming from various people wearing Google Glass around the Fieldhouse. "To be honest, I don't know much about (Google Glass) but I'm intrigued."

Pacemates Wearing Google Glass

Brunstrom isn't the only basketball fan curious about the lensless glasses that feature a small video screen above the right eye.

Rob Laycock, Vice President of Marketing at Pacers Sports & Entertainment, says they have been slowly integrating the 11 pairs of Google Glass the Pacers own into various aspects of the game and educating the fans about Glass along the way.

That includes taking the Google Glass to the Pacers fans and tech-curious citizens around the city of Indianapolis.

"I went to the public library last week and invited for free, (people) to come and check it out and see what we are doing," explained Laycock. "We had 85 people, and I thought I was going to speak for 15 to 20 minutes; I ended up getting 40 questions. At that point, I just invited those interested to come up and try them on for themselves."

Outfitting everyone from a member of the Pacemate dance team, to Pacers PA announcer Michael Grady, a member of the drum line, and even a fan in the stands with Glass takes some behind the scenes work as one might expect.

Those wearing the Google Glass are also outfitted with a small belt that helps power the analytics provided by San Francisco-based CrowdOptic that allows the video feed to hit the HD big screens above the scoreboard.

With CrowdOptic's technology and a control room manned by Brian Rogat, Associate Director of In Arena and Studio Production, those making the decisions can see what each pair of Google Glass is seeing and hone in on the right shot.

"Back here we try to put on the best show we can," said Rogat. "The delay is minimal and the first interaction I had was recording it from the viewpoint of a Pacemate, and it was unbelievable. We've seen angles from a drummer or from someone in the catwalk dropping parachutes into the stands."

CrowdOptic's involvement helps the Pacers team put the highest quality live footage on the scoreboard.

It also lets Pacers superfans Ray and Sharon Lucas of Indianapolis put the Glass on at various times during the game to give a perspective from the "Area 55" section of the Fieldhouse.

"I've worn it and it works great," said Ray. "It's pretty wild that what I'm seeing and doing is up on the big screen for everyone else to see."

Rogat says that right now what they show on the HD screens is pretty scripted, but as they and other teams keep using it and the technology improves, they will keep coming up with more and more ways to use what they have at their disposal.

Other NBA teams also tried Glass in the 2013-14 season, but the Pacers are the only ones using it in the Playoffs.

"The Orlando Magic have called, and they now have launched Glass," offers Laycock. "We were there when the Sacramento Kings launched it; and they have called us since to see how we are using it."

Laycock says he's learning the capabilities of Google Glass right with the fans and even though they have to train those that will be wearing it, it's easy to do and the whole process has been well worth the investment.

"The ballboys come over and ask if they can wear a pair. People really want to wear it to the extent that fans contact us on Twitter and ask if they can try it."

Laycock says there have been byproducts to the use of Google Glass in that they've been trending on Twitter each night during a home game with #PacersGameNight.

The Pacers, along with a small Silicon Valley company in CrowdOptic are leading the way in taking what many thought was just a novelty or consumer product and integrating it into a tried and true professional sport.

The organization has shown that a controlled environment like a basketball arena or a football stadium is where Google Glass really shines.

The fans, the Pacers, and the rest of the NBA are taking notice.