Wearable computers could enhance sports

Wearable computers, such Google Glasses, could change the way sports fans follow their teams. AP Photo/Google

There’s a ridiculous number of ways to take in sports in 2012. If you’re within your ever-expanding mobile network, live sports and updates are continuously available in the palm of your hand.

And soon, you won’t even need the palm of your hand.

Wearable computers are about to take off, according to a study released by Forrester Research, an organization that specializes in technology market trends. The report predicts wearables will be the next step in mobile computing, with some niche consumers tinkering with the technology over the next year. Once the “big five” web entities -- Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook -- invest and commit to wearables, these new devices will go mainstream. And that could happen earlier in this decade than previously thought.

Wearables “have enormous potential for uses in health and fitness, navigation, social networking, commerce, and media,” writes Sarah Rotman Epps, who authored the Forrester report. “Imagine video games that happen in real space. Or glasses that remind you of your colleague’s name that you really should know. Or paying for a coffee at Starbucks with your watch instead of your phone. Wearables will transform our lives in numerous ways, trivial and substantial, that we are just starting to imagine.”

Google recently provided a peek into its secret project called Project Glass that interacts with a person’s vision through a thick, computerized pair of glasses. On the device, users could send and receive messages through voice commands, record video, take pictures and acquire information about what they’re looking at. For instance, a person could hypothetically look at a sports bar through the glasses and receive information and reviews from other online users, the same way somebody would by googling it on their smartphone.

Needless to say, wearables will even further connect sports fans to their favorite teams.

It’s already, to be frank, absurd how quickly and frequently we consume sports. My ESPN ScoreCenter app buzzes about every three-and-a-half seconds -- and I couldn’t imagine having it any other way (the females in my life love that). A friend of mine receives an update every time the New York Mets finish a half inning -- and even then, he’ll still manually check the score if it seems like an inning is taking too long (Someone must be scoring! Or a pitching change!). During March Madness, despite having three TVs set up, we were still on our phones watching other games on the CBS app and monitoring our brackets.

With a computer in front of your eyeballs, sports fandom could be taken to another level. Where to begin? And perhaps as importantly, where to stop?

Can you imagine a scrolling sports ticker in your peripheral vision as you walk your dog? How about receiving an alert when an NBA game is tied in the final minute and then, by using a voice command, switching to live coverage of that game on your glasses? Or playing a football video game in which virtual defenders are all around you, not just in front of you on a screen?

And there are certainly more creative people than me conjuring up ideas on how to utilize the technology at this moment.

The idea of interactive glasses isn’t new, but the Forrester report suggests we’re going to be using them sooner than most experts thought. When the time comes, the major mobile players will battle for wearable customers the same way they’re currently fighting for customers on smartphones and tablets.

The glasses may look nerdy, but once they go mainstream there may be no better way to be a sports nerd.