- The PGA Tour released a new app that uses augmented reality (AR) to show golf fans how players of the Arnold Palmer Invitational shot on highlighted holes. The app will be the first one to show live sports data fed into ARKit, Apple's software platform for AR, according to a press release shared with Mobile Marketer.
- Users can interact with 3-D renderings of the course by pointing their iPhone or iPad toward a flat surface. They'll then see digital shot trails from each player appear on their screen alongside ball trajectory data collected with the PGA's official ShotLink electronic scoring system. An update to the PGA Tour AR app later this year will let fans who visit a golf course hold up their phones to see digitized shot trails for selected players while watching the tournament live or for a round of their own.
- MasterCard is the official sponsor of the app, developed by Possible Mobile, and live AR coverage will begin on March 15 with the opening round of the annual golf tournament in Florida.
The new PGA Tour app provides a taste of how AR technology is beginning to shape the viewership of live sporting events with features that let fans interact through their mobile devices and do their own live analysis with 3-D imagery and official data. The app is mostly designed for the home spectator for now, but the PGA Tour and Possible Mobile may add features for tournament attendees, such as navigational guides to amenities or directions to individual players on the course, per the release.
The PGA Tour is limiting the AR capabilities to a select number of players and holes this year, but has plans to eventually offer the technology at every tournament. This continuing evolution of the app built with live data points to the growing importance mobile has for events and other festivities. It's not hard to imagine that golf courses of the future could be set up with AR and geo-targeting capabilities that let fans see a wide range of live and historical data of tournament action alongside messages from sponsors, such as the ability to view details of apparel the players wear during a match.
The PGA is smartly embracing technology to adapt to the changing viewing habits of audiences, especially younger generations that are more likely to consume media on a smartphone or other mobile device. The PGA Tour has seen the median age of its TV viewership rise to 64 years in 2016 from 59 a decade earlier, per Sports Business Daily. The share of viewership among people under the age of 18 fell to 3% in 2016 from 5% in 2006, which doesn't bode well for the future unless the PGA can do more to entice younger viewers to consume golf content, likely through weaving in features and content that align with younger fans' shifting viewing preferences.
This comes as other professional sports organizations are experimenting with technology to enhance the experience for fans both at live games and at home. Last month, the National Basketball Association partnered with Magic Leap, a developer of mixed reality hardware, to produce content for the tech startup's upcoming headset. As part of their collaboration, the NBA will develop an app on Magic Leap's platform to let fans see game highlights and related content.