January 22, 2016 / By Tom Sabiel
From innovations in wearable tech to Virtual Reality, the intersection of sports and technology is becoming an increasingly exciting and compelling place for consumers, brand marketers and media properties.
At the recent CES conference in Las Vegas, for example, Intel made an announcement that got the attention of brand marketers and consumers alike. Their newest — and smallest — chip, the Curie, will serve a wide range of uses for both professional and recreational athletes. The latest in wearable tech, Curie presents an opportunity for a far more comprehensive and immersive sports experience.
We’ll get our first look at what the Curie can do during ESPN’s broadcast of the Winter X Games later this month in Aspen, CO. With the chip imbedded in each snowboard, viewers will be able to consume real-time data including air time and board rotation, as athletes are competing.
Imagine the possibilities in other sports: How high did Russell Westbrook soar on that dunk? How quickly are Usain Bolt’s feet moving as he accelerates in the sprint? These are all answers that will be available as the action is unfolding live on television.
For brand marketers, such as those of athletic apparel or gear, it’s too compelling an opportunity to ignore. Integrating this type of technology and data will help strengthen existing loyalties between brand and consumer and even transcend loyalties and build new ones for brands that embrace and leverage emerging technologies. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said it best — “We believe we are entering a new era of consumer technology, where consumers are choosing experiences over products.”
What really makes it exciting in the brand marketing space is a more heated arms race of sorts to find unique and more immersive uses of this technology to further enhance the consumer experience, similar to what we have seen with Apple and Samsung. With Intel’s recently announced New Balance partnership, innovations in wearable tech that have been championed by the likes of Nike and Under Armour will be dialed up to the Nth degree.
What intrigues me most is how this technology will further enhance human performance. Training, at both professional and recreational levels, will be completely revolutionized. With immediate performance feedback, athletes can leverage data to create efficiencies in their craft. Whether it’s a runner shaving a minute from their time or a basketball player improving their air time, the Curie — and wearable technology like it — will quickly shape the process in which athletes refine their bodies and their technique.
As an athlete that just ran his first marathon, this data would have been incredibly insightful. Where did I wear down? How could an adjusted pace effect my overall time? Knowing that the Curie is expected to be in market for under $10, it’s hard to imagine not utilizing this tool. It will make for an exciting future for athletes, with access no other generation has had to their own personal improvement.
We can expect to see professional athletes and their coaches under an even greater microscope. As this technology advances, we’ll be able to measure wear on the athlete, and it could make minute restrictions or touch limits a more common trend. Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal recently remarked that he would likely need to monitor his minutes for the rest of his career. Minutes are one thing, but what about distance traveled while on the court? The link between athlete and broadcast will provide fans with access to this information, and they will know when their favorite players, like Beal, are potentially being overworked on the court.
We have already seen how Virtual Reality is starting to impact performance training, like at Stanford University where it’s being used to allow their quarterbacks to train off the field while reading defenses and diagnosing solutions. Stephen Curry’s workout program using flashing lights has been widely reported on, and has helped to improve his ball-handling skills considerably.
No, Intel’s Curie is not the first wearable-based technology to impact the viewer and athlete experience, but you should expect that it will help raise the bar as the revolution in sports technology continues to heats up.