Last fall, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that he wanted to change the way people watch basketball. Specifically, he wanted to make it more interactive - like a video game - with live stats or social media commentary posted right alongside the game.
The NBA has found at least one technology partner to share in the idea: Magic Leap, the highly anticipated augmented reality startup set to launch its first pair of glasses this year, is now partnering with the NBA and its broadcast partner Turner, the companies announced Tuesday at Recode's Code Media conference in Huntington Beach, Calif.
The arrangement means that users will be able to watch some NBA content, like classic games or highlights, once Magic Leap launches its AR headset. People wearing the glasses will be able to see multiple screens overlaid onto the real world, "pin" those screens to a wall like a giant movie projector, or watch them as they walk around. You could watch an NBA basketball game on one screen, for example, while getting live stats or social media updates on another.
You won't be able to watch live NBA games with Magic Leap at launch, though that could change. The hope is that someday, you might watch an NBA game play out in 3-D right on your dining room table.
"Eventually, the game could be available streaming on your coffee table as though you were a giant looking into the arena from above," said Jeff Marsilio, the NBA's senior vice president of global media distribution. "Those are some ideas, those are things that we're working towards. [They're] not quite ready but actually more possible than you might think."
For the NBA, working with Magic Leap doesn't have a lot of downsides. Because of the broad decline in TV viewership, pro sports leagues like the NBA have a major incentive to find the next big medium where people will consume live sports. Maybe it will be Magic Leap. Or in virtual reality, where the NBA has other partnerships, or even on Facebook.
Partnering with everyone helps ensure that whatever platform wins out, the NBA will be well positioned. "When new technologies come out, it seems like they rarely totally replace the technologies that preceded them," Marsilio added. "That was true from radio to TV, and TV to the internet. People continue to watch and they just watch in more places."
The deal benefits Magic Leap, too, mostly because it means the NBA finds the technology worthy of the league's brand. Magic Leap has raised a lot of money, and people have been waiting for a product release for years. The NBA signing on as a partner is, at the very least, a vote of confidence.
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