When it comes to the world around us, there’s no great sorcery necessary to have a pretty good idea about what the near future holds. By now we know the general pattern: The technologies being developed today that are catching hold with innovative start-ups, major tech company R&D labs, and early adopter consumers are the technologies, in further developed form, that will for the most part be in broad deployment in 5-10 years across the commercial landscape and with the less tech savvy masses.
One need only to take a close look at today to start to see tomorrow; and when we do, we see emerging things like AI, blockchain, crypto, machine vision, robotics, advanced analytics, cloud, IoT (the Internet of things), augmented reality, virtual reality, green tech, natural language processing, 5G, 6G, inter-app communication, short wave, biometrics, and many more, all in very real forms today.
When “all grown up,” price commoditized, and working in concert, these technologies and others are sure to deliver the kinds of experiences that will surely captivate us as magic. And what better place for the masses to experience that magic than in real life at a sporting event? So toss aside the clunky VR headset, fire up the DeLorean or jump in your hot tub time machine… and let’s take a journey to the future to imagine a few of the possibilities…
Whether you’re in a driverless Uber or riding in your own spanking new EV, the venue already knows your mode of transportation because your cloud connected Smart Ticket has identified which app (Uber or Bluetooth connection to your own car) is in use and communicates your arrival. There is no stopping to pay for parking; it was either pre-paid with the ticket or is taken from your mobile wallet with your voice authorization as you enter the venue’s geo-fence.
In communication with a central parking and traffic “brain,” self-driving takes over and leads you to a drop off zone nearest to your seats or preferred drop-off point before self-parking. With real-time traffic modeling controlling all the movements in sync, everyone moves with the precision of a fluid ant colony. Traffic and hassle are indeed a thing of the past.
The Show Begins
The moment you step out, you are in the middle of what can only be described as a grand digital circus. Grandpa George, who tends not to shut up about the old days, has told you about a time when you had to boringly trudge along concrete and wait to be in your seat for the game to begin to be entertained, but not anymore. He had a 26 second attention span and even occasionally read books. You have an 8 second span and need constant “wow” far greater than anything you can get on your devices, video games, or screens at home to travel out and spend the money. Appealingly to your digital brain, the show is on!
Comprised of digital glass and OLED, the stadium structure itself is one giant, continuous screen on the exterior, grander than anything you have ever seen and playing energetic and thunderous hype videos to fire you up. Haptics make the ground around you seem to shake in sync with an on-screen tackle. The architecture and landscape design surrounding the venue is like a theme park with different courtyards, bars and restaurants, beautiful lighting, sound effects, music, and screens everywhere showing what’s happening on the field as well as at other games.
Activities also abound and in one, your son can line up and race a digital version of his favorite player in the forty-yard dash. Your team is “The Marauders” and he and many others also delight in the realistic holographic battle between giant pirates swooshing about above them in the sky. By taking “The Dr. Pepper Challenge” on his phone, your son can win control of the interactive, devilish mascot in the battle. It’s a video game where the screen is the air all around you. You, meanwhile, jump across the backs of hammerhead sharks on an interactive digital pirate’s lagoon.
You and your kids always want to come early to experience it all and that added dwell time leads to far more sponsorship value, F&B dollars, souvenir purchases, and more.
“Old Fashioned” Ingress
In the distant past, you have been told there was a time when people could just walk through an airport and on to an airplane and that was remarkable – like five cent soda pop and wooden toys. But it doesn’t seem like such a big deal here because you can do that exact same thing – just walk right in. There are no gates or fences, folding tables staffed by yellow jackets ready to look through your stuff, metal detectors, or choke points to scan (or worse) tear your ticket.
Your Smart Ticket has long since registered your arrival, you have been thermal scanned without even realizing it for disease while facial recognition technology and biometrics have matched you to your device ID and ticket. Everything from good ole’ fashioned low tech Labrador retrievers to AI-monitored x-rays (i.e. not human, not invasive) have already determined you are not a threat. So you just wander enthralled and uninterrupted through the show and eventually seamlessly right into the stadium itself.
But meanwhile, a potential bad actor has also arrived. Mindful of privacy, the recognition system has flagged him as a “yellow” light due to a prison record and a data profile as a radical extremist. He hasn’t done anything, and he has a right to be there too, so no human is invading his privacy and watching him yet… but AI knows he is there and is keeping track of his movements.
At one point, though, he sets down a backpack and starts to walk away. In this moment, the sensor cameras that “read” all the on-ground movements for security, and their real-time image processing, detect the object anomaly of a person separating from a backpack (a potential bomb threat). Furthermore, with the person now detected, he is correlated to his yellow light ID, and the potential combined threat triggers a human deployment. Several of the undercover security agents nearby are instantly routed over for a casual, discreet, but high priority pass by. They see the potential bad actor return to his bag and place the new hat he just bought back in his otherwise empty backpack. Threat de-activated.
While all that was going on, you were meeting up with your favorite legendary player to have him personally lead you to your seats. Your son loves sports stats and no one knows more about today’s match-up than the legend, but never mind that he has been dead for thirty years. As an advanced humanoid robot, he’s forever in his prime, smart as whip, and seems to know you even better than you know him thanks to natural language processing, a connection to your CRM profile, and a whole host of cloud connected data and social media signals being processed based on the RFID read of your ticket and streamed through the venue’s 5/6G bandwidth. A jersey patch, the one exception to period authenticity, reveals that his services today are courtesy of Comcast.
He leads you up a people mover where you find yourself surrounded by a tube that seems to be a never-ending window to a fully immersive, 3-D, mystical pirate island of foggy sea, sharp rocks, crashing waves, glowing moonlight, and wizened trees. Your eyes drink it all in. Marauders Cove is straight out of the most sophisticated video game graphics renderer and engine; and as your guide asks you about your other favorite players or favorite team moments, they appear around you on demand like ghostly video images in the clouds and in the moonlit ocean ripples.
Taking your seat, there is one last question from your guide: Would you like an IPA? You may not know it, but you usually have one in the first quarter and then if they are winning, a second one just before half. If they are losing, you tend to jump to Bloody Mary’s. The venue knew that though. So an IPA strikes you as perfect. You are in a great mood.
A few seats away, you also notice an old school face-painter with a vintage flip phone and a cone hat made from foil. He doesn’t believe in technology and is part of the very small minority left in the world not comfortable with “the deal” one makes for the advantages of efficiency and personalization through technology, so there’s no IPA for him unless he gets up to get one. He’s obviously welcome here too, though when he came in, the inability to read his digital signals caused him to be re-routed to a human-staffed, legacy gate where he went through an old school metal detector and had a ticket torn.
Better Than a Video Game
Once the game starts, an already exciting show gets even better. The action is incredible and high scoring. The players seem as wildly capable as Madden characters and in many ways, they are -- thanks to the radical progression in advanced on-field analytics, in game strategy adjustments, and player training and analysis that began to take hold with teams back in the old days of big data (around 2018).
Enjoying it is the total sensory experience that your digital brain expects of the world too. The bowl is not just seats and some LED, but equal parts theater with more screens and sophisticated 3-D content far from the old days of shell games delighting fans. Back during The First Pandemic (2020), fans started joining virtually on screens in the stadium and that has now long since become standard practice. Fifty thousand live fans plus twenty thousand virtual ones. It all combines together into a high energy show.
The best part is that as a play happens and is then re-shown on the video board, it simultaneously displays on your phone too. You have an old habit of booing refs, but now before that is even necessary, you vote “In/Out of Bounds” with a tap in real time as the fan opinion tabulates on the screens. As the refs debate the coach’s challenge, you get the same breakdown of the action, camera angles, and applicable rules on your device that were once-upon-a-time reserved only for TV viewers watching Tony Romo dissect a controversial call.
Speaking of those “no action” moments, such as the time between plays that can last all of 40 seconds, which is an eternity to your digital brain used to skipping commercials, the venue and show are designed to make sure you always have multiple ways to remain engaged. In addition to the myriad of videoboards and content, music, and cheers that have forever delighted fans, you also get game stats and clips feeding to your device, as well as watch that devilish mascot continuing to fly about and reap havoc around the stadium.
Since you are a true geek, you instead kill the downtime by looking at the field through your device or smart glasses to see an augmented reality, 3-D overlay of the sets and plays analytics predict will happen next. It’s just like a Madden interface and, so far at a 22% call rate for the game, you consider the coaching options and make a selection on what you would do next…
Revenue, Revenue, Revenue
…And since you are something of a betting man, you also jump in on the Prop Bets happening now and rack up a big win when you correctly guess that ref will flex his biceps while making his next call in front of the cameras. You can also visit the in-venue sports bars and bet on other games and events at any time, but you like the constant action of the fun stuff from your chair and are able to micro bet all throughout. Your digital wallet has been churning all day, especially with your son virtually trying on team gear on his phone, and then having his authorized purchases delivered to your seats, so you are happy to put a little something back in it.
You are feeling especially lucky now because beside your winning bet, that second IPA comes right on cue. It’s a Captain Lawrence and you chose that because their special offer was put in front of you on your phone. The tall skinny guy a few rows down got a Bud Light hard seltzer, though. Both are preferred sponsors, but neither of you know that your menu was programmatically served to you distinctly. The “brains” of the stadium allow for precise targeting, and so with a real-time, auction-based CPA model, the team maximizes profits by selling the habits and wants of their fans in the moment of intent, rather than a blanket, CPM-based sponsorship fee.
If you want anything else, you just say so with your voice and it arrives minutes later because Siri, Alexa, and their crew have since been deployed as open development platforms and the sensor at your seat matches your voice to your ticket ID and authenticates the purchase.
But the revenue management system is detecting a problem today that could put this game below target budget. The game looks to be a blowout already at the start of the third quarter and the advanced analytics predict it getting much worse. Based on real-time modeling, that computes to a high number of early exits by the start of the fourth quarter, and significant lost revenue in correlation (the system predicts exact numbers). So the inter-connected systems automatically trigger revenue correction mechanisms…
“Fan Cam” starts happening on the boards and the remote cameras automatically train to the seats where the system knows families will be. Blowout or not, no kid- your son included- will allow the family to leave so long as they can potentially see themselves on the big board. Flash sales also start to happen to clear through perishable food inventory. Ad inventory is pushed at a faster clip to reach revenue thresh-holds. The programming on the boards and phones is also automatically shifted by the system to promote staying. Content and A/R games, for example, affix prizes such as rare digital collectibles and NFTs that require staying until the end to win. You also aren’t personally going anywhere until you get that 22% prediction rate up to 27% and crack the leaderboard. Staying, the system knows, equals revenue, and it constantly analyzes field action, departures, temperatures, weather, and programming to find the most effective formulas for retention and profitability.
But alas the game comes to an end. As used to be the case in the old days, there isn’t anxiety to miss that last great play and beat the crowds to make it out before it all turns into a traffic hellscape. Without the choke points of a few entrance/exit points, the ability to summons your vehicle and be told an exact “go” time on your app, and efficient, real-time traffic patterning on your way based on your respective destination, the venue drains as fluidly as it filled. The experience overall is so delightful, you will never hesitate to attend because of “the hassle” as was a factor in the old days. Quite the opposite – like a well-designed UI, the fluidity and experience of it all is a magic that is endorphin-releasing to experience. You can’t wait to come again.
And now there is just the mess… the empty cups, the spilled ketchup, the abused restrooms, and the general post-apocalyptic wreckage of 50,000 fans having had a party at your house. That still happens in the future.
Cue the IoT robots.
Cameras and sensors have every inch of the venue grounds mapped and so every spilled beer and crushed peanut shell is identified. That information dispatches and drives the armada of customized robots to vacuum, power wash, and sanitize every last soiling of the apocalypse with mathematical efficiency– never in the same sequence because the mess is never exactly the same. Remembering your iRobot Roomba and the way it used to terrorize your neurotic Pomeranian but ensure not a single strand of its hair would be left on your shiny wood floors, the beauty of these machines, distant offspring of that Roomba, dancing under the late moonlight in orchestration is not lost on you.
And when the job is done, they return to their docking stations to refuel. The boards, video glass façade of the buildings, holographs, and all else long ago powered down. Sensors have judged the damage to the outside grass, read the weather reports, made the moisture calculations, and activated the sprinklers precisely. The sun will rise tomorrow and feed all with new solar power. But by then, you and your DeLorean will have returned to the far more analog past.
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