IBM Seer: augmented reality and what the umpire doesn’t see at Wimbledon

Funny thing about working for an uber-company is that sometimes you learn about the cool stuff being produced through external sources. Such was the case this week when the excellent FIR podcast made an obscure mention to IBM’s augmented reality (AR) app for Wimbledon.

Tantalized, I had to look further. And this is what I discovered:

Nice, huh?

It’s like using your smart phone as a pair of those goggles sci fi writers used to dream about: superimposing the location of important places (or deadly villains) as you look around. How does it work? The app ties together the live feed from your webcam with your GPS (so the phone knows where you are) and your internal compass (to sense in which direction you are pointing). Add to that a map with all the important places at Wimbledon plotted on it (courts, cafes, info booths, toilets), and you have one very cool app. Disclaimer: this is the explanation of a vaguely technical marketer, no Einstein progeny.

OK, words and pictures will only go so far. See this app in technicolor action through the wonders of YouTube:

BTW, I should point out that this year wasn’t the first time this app was featured at Wimbledon. However, the growth in smart phone usage has made it more widespread and meant it has received more coverage.

What have others being saying about it? Chris Rawlinson points out that Ogilvy worked together with IBM to develop this technology. AugmentedPlanet give more technical background, explaining how the app was developed using the Wikitude browser. Eurodroid found the app surprisingly useful, and not just a piece of mobile marketing fluff. Tennis Video Channel point out that you can even point your phone in the direction of a court and watch live footage (for instance, if you are queuing to get in).

What are the wider implications of a tool like this? I’d suggest it’s overkill for your average company picnic (although could be reassuring to tag your boss and know where they are at all times to avoid any embarrassments), however if you are involved in planning large events, there could be some real value here.

For instance, if you can tie this up with an event management tool, attendees can bookmark their sessions and use an AR application to navigate to the next session. You could also point attendees to places of interest, such as book signings or special events. To cover housekeeping, it makes sense to add toilet facilities, cafes, etc.

Any other applications or case studies around augmented reality you’d like to share? Let me know!

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