NBA All-Star Weekend kicked off yesterday with commissioner Adam Silver unveiling several features soon to become part of the future live game streaming experience. The annual Tech Summit always offers a solid glimpse into the future, and fans were abuzz wondering what technical marvels would be coming to the NBA viewing experience.
During his presentation, Silver mentioned multiple quality-of-life upgrades including wider customization options, alternate languages, and integrated betting. Silver brought up other features as well such as celebrity commentary and an animated graphics package, but those don’t really appeal to me as much as the first three changes I mentioned. I’d always rather hear professional broadcasters talk about the game than some random celebrity trying to push their new ad deal. That’s just me though. I’m sure some people are thrilled about those changes.
Regardless, the most noteworthy change was the integration of augmented reality. This part of the presentation stole the show as Silver brought Ahamad Rashad, scanned him, and immediately inserted him into a Horton Tucker highlight.
WOW! INCREDIBLE! Is that really the best the league has to offer?
Who is this for? Who in their right mind would want to insert themselves in the game? Sure, it might be cool for a second to see a semi-well-rendered version of yourself pull off something you could never do in real life, but what’s the point? Who are you going to show this to? Your friends? That’ll go over really well.
“Hey, look at this. I can put myself into the game.”
“Wow! That was cool.”
“Do you want to see it again?”
“No, I’d rather just watch the game.”
The more you insist on showing people your avatar pulling off highlights, the dumber you are going to look. It won’t make anyone look cool. It’s a neat party trick and that’s it. It’s not worth investing millions into.
What are some other uses I can think of for this? Well, if there’s a player you really don’t like or someone that has been the butt of NBA culture recently, fans could insert themselves into situations where they get to dunk on said player or make them look like a fool. I won’t lie and say that I wouldn’t be interested in breaking Ben Simmons’ ankles even if it’s fake.
What else? If I ever have kids, maybe I could fool them into thinking I was once a pro basketball player. That might be fun for a day or two, right?
Ummm...maybe if I can insert multiple avatars into a single play I can make it look like I’m dunking on a friend of mine?
That’s pretty much it though. Some people will say things like, “Well, people love to insert themselves into career mode on NBA 2K, and it feels authentic, so why wouldn’t we get the same feeling with this new tech?” but that’s ridiculous. The 2K series is a video game, and games are intended to make you feel like the character you’re playing as. Whether it’s first or third-person, you are controlling every action your character makes, and that makes you the person on screen more than the person reading their lines. With this new AR tech, you have no control. You know how the play is going to happen, you know what they are going to do. That doesn’t equate to the badassery you feel when you pull off a sick maneuver in Blacktop mode, or dominate an opposing team online. Your decisions led to that highlight, that enormous victory. With this, it seems like just a method for people who swore they would have made the league if not for an injury they suffered in middle school to see a fake alternate dimension and whisper to themselves “I would’ve been the best the world ever saw.” Lame.
From the NBA’s perspective, I understand why they’d want to roll something like this out. Augmented reality is the future, and perhaps this was the most they could pull off with such tech before the summit. However, I can’t think of anybody who legitimately wanted this.
You know what would be cooler? Ref cams. People love to hate on referees for making bad calls. Putting cameras on the refs to show their point of view during the action would be an interesting feature that I’m sure fans would love to see. There are some obvious detriments, most notably, opening the door to much more criticism for officials, but at the same time, it could also provide perspective on how hard it can be to notice certain fouls in real-time. Furthermore, if the technology ends up being very effective for fans pointing out fouls, it could then be used by video crews for instant replay to make appropriate calls in key moments. Doesn’t that sound like something everyone can get behind?
Look, if you’re intrigued by the idea of putting yourself into a highlight, I don’t blame you. As I said, I’d be down to laugh a little watching myself or a friend of mine in one of our favorite highlights or Shaqtin’ a Fool moments. If this is the best the NBA could offer at the tech summit though, what are they even doing?