FC Barcelona Regal v Laboral Kutxa Vitoria - Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16

While the world still awaits Google Glass hitting the mainstream, Europe’s top basketball league is already finding ways to help it change the game.

Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv took the Euroleague title, basketball’s answer to the Champions League, in thrilling fashion against Real Madrid last month. The under-card game that preceded the epic final may however prove more important for the future of the sport.

The third place playoff, a game widely ignored by fans and with little interest from players, was used as a staging ground for Euroleague’s second in-game test of Google Glass. “We’re always looking for new ways of integrating new technologies in the league. We want to find new ways to get more insight from using new content for our fans and on the other side to find tools for basketball professionals that can be useful for their day-to-day work,” said Alex Ferrer, communications director with Euroleague.

“We have a partnership with the University of La Salle in Barcelona and we learned that they were official testers of Glass in Spain. We started brainstorming to see what we could do with the technology this season,” said Ferrer.

Prior to the third place playoff test, Euroleague had a field test of the technology during an earlier stage of the season in a game between Barcelona and Laboral Kutxa. “We did a couple of tests in a Top 16 game and these tests were mostly related to producing content for the fans. The next step is to see how this can also be used to provide data to professionals to be used in real time to make decisions on the court,” said Ferrer.

“We released a clip that the fans loved for the Barcelona-Laboral Kutxa game. It was with the players and coaches and referees wearing them. It truly provided a different view, a unique view that we couldn’t experience before so we are planning to do more in the future and also to find other ways because it’s not the only thing you can do with this device.”

For the third place playoff last month, Euroleague equipped a referee with Glass for the game between Barcelona and CSKA Moscow. The league also got players to wear the device during practices before their games. The video the players recorded was used as part of two mini-movies released by Euroleague from the finals weekend. Ferrer said the players enjoyed helping to create content for the fans.

“Everybody loves it when you give it to them. Players and coaches love it. It’s a new thing so they like to experiment with it. In the beginning, it’s a little strange because you have something in your eye that you’re not used to but after a few seconds you get used to that and it’s only a very small screen on the top of your vision,” he said.

Euroleague is looking to expand the way in which it uses Glass in the coming season, based largely on the positive reaction from fans and teams.

“We are planning what to do for next season. Definitely the experiment, the little test we did this season worked, we’re very happy with the results and we’re planning to do more. It’s still too early to say exactly how much more we are going to do but definitely we are brainstorming to do more, to produce more content and find more possibilities as well,” said Ferrer.

“It’s about finding new ways of putting basketball in front of the fans. The good thing with Google Glass is that you view the game from the point of view of the stars, of the true stars, of the protagonists. That’s something that you couldn’t do with regular coverage before.”

The Euroleague experiment didn’t involve any direct involvement from Google. The IT giant is deliberately giving a free reign to developers in order to broaden research on Glass. Google’s Emily Clarke said the technology could find multiple uses in sport.

“It could be hugely useful for instant replay because you get a different perspective than you would get. If you’re using it yourself as a player or a team member in that situation, that’s like watching yourself from a different perspective that you can’t get from another way or another form very easily,” said Clarke.

“We want to get feedback from different groups on how they use it best and from that what features we need to improve and add. When we launch a product like glass, albeit in its early form, the best place to get feedback on it is the real world rather than the group of people who know it inside out. We want to find out about usability, how intuitive it is, what works in different situations,” she said.

Clarke said Google had already made a series of upgrades to Glass based on user feedback. “We’ve made something like 10 software iterations and a few hardware iterations since its launch as we’ve got that feedback. The other side of Glass as well is the etiquette side. Whenever you get new technology coming onto the market, there’s always etiquette that springs up around it, like what happened with phones for example when they first came, about when is appropriate to wear it, when it’s not,” she said.

“Particularly with Glass, it’s in terms of getting people comfortable with what it can do and what it can’t. It’s helping people understand what it’s used for, what protections there are in place in terms of the privacy point of view. We’ve produced a set of guidelines on that based on the feedback we got from users.”

Google is still keeping quiet on when Glass will get a full release but the likes of Euroleague will continue researching its potential so that they are ready for it to go mainstream.

This article first appeared in the Sunday Business Post‘s Connected magazine.

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