It's somewhat charming that Google is trumpeting the partnership between APX Labs and the Washington Capitals hockey team as a stellar example of business application development for Google Glass. Indeed, when you read Google's Monday night blog post announcing its Glass at Work program, APX Labs' Skybox app seems like something straight-laced and corporate--the result of a very serious enterprise software effort.
No, it's none of that. The Washington Capitals' Skybox app is designed for fans who want a close-up view of hockey fights that they just can't get from various locations in the Verizon Center arena.
Jay Kim, APX Labs' Chief Technology Officer, says the Capitals have been seeding about 25 fans per game with Google's smartglasses, demoing the Skybox app in a live beta environment. The Glassware receives a near-real-time feed of game highlights culled straight from the arena's production team, bypassing the NHL's video platform for a unique, on-site-only experience.
"Whenever something interesting happens on the ice, the production room at the Verizon Center starts cutting a highlight of that play," says Kim. "It could be a single camera angle or multiple angles. As soon the production center publishes that highlight, Skybox is able to provide the Glassware with access to that content. We've seen that as quickly as a few seconds, but sometimes it takes a minute or two."
The real-world benefit? Well, if you've left your seat to get some junk food at a concession stand, you can still see a kick-ass hockey fight before the blood has frozen on the ice. Look, this Capitals fan is enjoying a brawl right here:
So what if you're sitting in your seat? Kim says Skybox helps solve sight line problems, which can be an issue in any sporting facility.
"Fans in the 400 section lose out because they can't see the other end line. They may not have gotten a good look at a goal. But with Skybox, we can queue four or five different angles and play that back," Kim says. "And for the fan who's on ringside, you have to strain your neck to see what's on the Jumbotron, which is right in the middle of the arena. But being to able to have your own personalized, head-up Jumbotron that's accessible whenever you want, that's really compelling."
In addition to receiving instant replays, Skybox can also deliver stats and player profiles straight to Glass. The APX Labs team hooked up with the Capitals because they're huge hockey fans, and they live in the Washington DC area. Also, says Kim, the Verizon Center "has a content management system that allows us to hook into all of the replays, and deliver all that content in a very real-time fashion."
But what about the Glasshole factor? Isn't Kim worried about, well, less tech-enthusiastic hockey fans taking out their aggression on Skybox beta testers? "Because we're positioning Glass as technology that enhances your fan experience rather than a ubiquitous device that you constantly wear all the time, it ends up becoming just another tool you use to do something better," Kim says. "In that regard, in sports, the stigma associated with Glass is lessened."
Well, that was a buttoned-up reply. Maybe the Skybox app really is the perfect example of Google's effort to seed straight-laced enterprise software development.