New technology poised to enter sports stadiums

We’ve only gotten a glimpse of the new technology poised to come into sports stadiums throughout the next decade, technologists predict. From 3-D images to greater use of video, we’ve so far seen only the tip of the iceberg.

In the short term, stadiums will continue to become more digital. Entire walls that separate NFL and NHL players from fans can now be covered by video for animation, statistics and video clips.

Future stadiums may also include more interactive technology in suites, such as voice-activated features or the ability to choose from different camera angles, said Jonathan Knight, a principal at HOK Sport, a Kansas City sports architecture firm whose clients include 30 NFL franchises.

A major factor driving the innovation is that fans want more information. Advertising, for example, is a huge new area for exploration. “If you want to change the advertisers, it’s just delete on the computer,” Jay Parker, national sales manager for large sports venues at Daktronics, told the Sioux Falls “Argus Leader” newspaper.

However, the Holy Grail for engineers may be 3-D technology. The emergence of 3-D technology holds potential for many industries, from displaying underground oil fields to 3-D cityscapes for use by emergency workers in a disaster, said Jim Gardner, VP of business development for Austin, Texas-based Zebra Imaging, which produces holographic images and 3-D display technologies. “I think in the next decade you're going to see some revolutionary technologies in 3-D,” Gardner told the “Argus Leader.”

In the NFL, “you see these cameras zooming around overhead giving you these wild shots, and I think you’re going to see more of that,” said James Oliver, director of the CyberInnovation Institute and Virtual Reality Applications Center at Iowa State University. Add more camera equipment on wires over the field, and games could soon be broadcast in 3-D, Oliver said.

Already, there are glimpses of 3-D technology in sports and entertainment. The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum in London features cinematic techniques designed to give visitors the sensation of seeing championship tennis in 3-D.

Harold Garner, who invented the digital micro-mirror holographic projection system, predicted that some type of holographic technology could someday be used on the scale needed for an NFL stadium. “It’s possible, certainly in the 10- or 20-year timeframe,” Garner said.