Augmented Reality in Esports: A New Dimension
Written by Contributing Intern Matthew Carrico
Collegiate esports offers much in the way of variety for aspiring athletes. With various genres and titles, esports makes a name for itself as a diverse and inclusive field to be part of. Genres such as fighting games, sports, battle royales, first-person shooters (FPS) and much more make the realm of possibility for esports that much more accessible. Some collegiate esports programs are adding virtual reality (VR) options as well. One such example is the VR Master League. With all this variety, it can be hard to tell where the esports scene will go from here. By the looks of things, many esports programs are looking into adapting augmented reality.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality, or AR, is enhancing the real world through the use of digital visual elements. This includes sound effects and other stimuli to provide unique, interactive experiences. AR is currently a growing trend among companies that specialize in mobile computing and business software. One of the primary goals of AR is to highlight specific features about the real world. This is so we can increase understanding of the features and derive intelligent insight that can be applied to real-world applications. Games such as Knightfall AR, The Walking Dead: Our World and the popular Pokémon Go are examples of AR games. In contrast to VR which is its own cyber world, AR adds to the real world we all live in.
Augmented Reality and Competitive Esports
The purpose of AR is to provide a more immersive experience for the user. As such, one of the most fundamental things to consider when applying AR to competitive esports is to first address the appeal to the mainstream audience while relying on advancements in technology in order for more to better enjoy the game that is being played. Esports matches are not usually easy to follow with multiple players all on one map with different scenes to showcase the action of every character. Thus, it can make it difficult to know where AR would fit in these situations. There are, however, currently test trials going in order to better understand where AR would best fit in the industry.
In 2020 during the League of Legends World Championship Final, Riot Games offered AR options for fans attending the event. Riot was able to accomplish this by utilizing special AR glasses developed by a Chinese technology company called Rokid. The AR glasses allowed the audience to summon an Elder Dragon from the game to fly around the venue, providing a spectacle. This test for the audience can allow Riot to gather data and further develop the AR for competitive use in the future.
AR and Esports Broadcasting
The process of evolving AR for more practical use starts in small steps. Many types of broadcasting have used AR as shown in many TV and mobile device services. In the sports industry, AR displays the scores and data over the real-world sports feed. Thus, many of us already have exposure to AR without knowing it. If we imagine this kind of usage in an esports setting, AR can be used to bring objects and characters into the real world to provide an enhanced experience (harkening back to the LoL dragon example from earlier). In the near future, there may even be a brand new genre of esports that uses this technology in competitive settings.
Not only has the sports industry adopted AR, but people at home are utilizing AR to various degrees. In terms of esports, fans can get access to information and graphics with AR broadcasts. This is the case with many 3D maps with player statistics. AR being added to the feed can be seen as a preliminary for what could come in the future. Fans can use smart devices or even new versions of AR glasses to get match the information on the fly. With further advancements, fans could soon be able to view matches with multiple screens, switch to different perspectives on the match and soon may even be able to display full 3D maps right in their own house. The potential is only scratching the surface.
Usage in a Professional Setting
Aside from player and audience usage of AR, there is potential for careers in the esports industry to make use of the technology. AR can help insert characters and other elements into the real world, and this can provide new creative freedom. Content creators can make use of this to develop new forms of esports creativity that can lead to monetization and further innovation. The technology will lift esports to reach new, younger audiences that crave new technology that improves existing structures.
At the end of the day, AR will primarily serve to increase interest and engagement for the esports industry. This will lead to an increase in ad revenue and branded content. The use of this technology will allow esports brands to reach out to younger audiences and pave the way for outreach. Content owners can see new marketplaces and revenue coming in. AR can help evolve and push the world of possibilities in the industry moving forward. Yet is still young and needs more time to develop. This way, esports and Augmented Reality can properly accommodate each other.
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