By Hanna Peters

Sporting events are evolving more than we think. It’s not just happening through the headlines we read regularly: that football is more popular than ever, baseball may not be every little kid’s dream anymore, or that basketball is resonating on social media. Rather, there are structural changes happening – things that will change how fans engage with their favorite sports, or even change what those sports are. 

From augmented reality viewing to the rise of drone racing the following is the future of the American sporting experience …

Video Gaming and eSports
eSports have escalated in both legitimacy and economic impact over the last ten years. Reuters reported that revenues are expected to grow over $1 billion this year, and the Paris 2024 Olympics planning committee is seriously considering adding an eSports demonstration. As this budding side branch of the sports world grow in popularity, there will be more opportunities for gamers to become professional eSports players – and we’re likely, in time, to think of them as athletes. It may sound strange now, but then the idea of a $1b-a-year spectator gaming industry would have sounded similarly bizarre just a few years ago. There’s no denying at this point that eSports are on their way. 

AR-Assisted Live Viewing
Your grandfather used to go to the baseball game, buy some cracker jacks, find his seat, and whip out a scorecard. This was what fandom looked like once upon a time. But as much as we appreciate the vibe of vintage baseball, the sport looks different now than it did in your grandfather’s day. And at least in part, this is because of modern tech like augmented reality. 

AR has the potential to provide fans with a whole different experience at a modern game, baseball or otherwise. Looking through AR glasses, you might be able to see a player’s stats right before your eyes when you look at him, or perhaps get an alert telling you the exact speed of a pitch that was just made. And these are just the very earliest of the perks that AR (and virtual reality as well) will be offering in the years to come. 

While this is a bit more hypothetical, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine AR glasses giving fans the ability to watch instant replays in real time (sort of like the “omnioculars” from the Quidditch World Cup, for you Harry Potter readers – except based in tech rather than magic). We’re also likely to see virtual reality applied to more and more leagues, teams, and stadiums, giving fans the ability to watch from home as if they’re in the best seats in the house. And even beyond fun ideas like these, it’s likely there’s more we can’t quite conceive of just yet. 

Sportsbooks In Every State
Already, New Jersey has succeeded in introducing the American public to sports betting in a new and exciting way. Trusted sportsbooks have been legalized in the Garden State, bringing full betting listings to fans, and other states are already working to catch up. It’s fairly clear even from a quick glance at the New Jersey landscape and expanding legislation elsewhere that betting will soon become a much bigger part of the American sporting experience. Naturally, many feel that sports are even more exciting when they have something riding on the outcome.

This means that in time there are likely to be sportsbooks operating in every state – online, via mobile apps, and sometimes, we assume, even through physical venues. And for that matter, to loop this into our previous point about tech evolution win sports viewership, it’s expected that some sportsbooks will partner with AR developers as well, so as to provide real-time wagering options via glasses. The larger point here though is simply that sports betting is on its way, and it’s going to be a huge new aspect of the American sports experience. 

Drone Racing
As if eSports doesn’t represent enough of a fusion between tech and athletic competition, drone racing is on the rise as well. In just a few years of relatively mainstream attention we’ve seen the Drone Racing League expand to include highly impressive professional pilots who race for large sums of money. They compete in races that resemble pod racing from Star Wars, and are, to some, more exciting than auto races. With better software and programming on the rise for drones, their capabilities keep growing, and thus the circle of true expert pilots is being narrowed to include the best of the best. This should only make things more competitive and more dramatic in the years to come, which will only help drone racing on its path toward unofficial major sport status. Don’t be too surprised if the next generation’s idea of “take me out to the ballgame” means strapping on a VR headset to “fly along” with a drone in live competition.


Featured Image: The Drone Racing League custom drones, the Racer3, in action at Alexandra Palace for the World Championship during the Drone Racing League Photocall at Alexandra Palace, London. Photo credit: Steve Paston/PA Wire.