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Addressing Baseball’s Pace-Of-Play With Augmented Reality

Virtex Arena, an augmented reality app designed to fill the downtime during live sporting events, uses a 3D model of the stadium to overlay games onto the field directly in front of a viewer’s seat. The football version of the app debuted earlier this year at the Super Bowl, but its makers have their eyes on a bigger picture — the built-in breaks inherent to baseball.

“There is a natural cadence of the game present in baseball that is different from football,” said the app’s founder and developer, Jeff Green. “Everyone knows that after three outs there will be a break in the game. In football a timeout could be called at anytime. For baseball there are a lot of structured breaks so I think it will be a natural fit.” According to Green, the goal of the Super Bowl rollout was mainly to generate interest.

Virtex’s baseball version includes two options for gameplay: hitting and fielding. When fans tap on their screens, virtual players run across the real field. For a nine-inning baseball game, there are 17 solid breaks where teams switch sides. Pitching changes or replay reviews aside, that provides a lot of opportunity for fans to play Virtex Arena over the course of a game.

“When you go to the game, during breaks people are texting or browsing twitter and ESPN. That is what we are replacing,” Green said. “[We are giving fans] the ability to participate in something that is happening right there with 10,000 other people. It’s a fun opportunity to compete and one you only can get in a stadium environment.”

For the MLB season, Virtex modeled stadiums from New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and St. Louis but will be adding the rest of the MLB stadiums as the season goes on. The real challenge for Green will be getting the rights from MLB and the clubs to use the official team names and logos. Choosing between the Yankees or the Red Sox is more exiting than choosing between Team Red or Team Blue. If MLB buys in, the app could also find a home on the jumbotron — put the action and the leaderboard up on the big screen and mass engagement will follow, according to Green.

“Get 20,000 sports fans in a stadium, put a leaderboard up, and see what happens,” he said. “The main goal is to make something people will enjoy. Hopefully by giving people the chance to participate in something and tap into their love of competition we will build something great.”