Imagine watching an All Blacks game from the grandstands at Eden Park, while your smartphone beams up real-time displays, right before your eyes.

Think of combining the incredible interactive experience of augmented reality (AR) games like Pokemon Go with the live action of a big match.

That's the goal of a new project that could forever change the way we experience sports.

Twenty-five years after Dunedin's Animation Research brought America's Cup viewers the world's first real-time graphics in a sporting event, the space is changing rapidly.


Fans watching games at home are now treated to a banquet of flashy digital displays, making matches much more of an experience than they once were.

Those who have paid for a seat in the stands, however, miss out on the best of the visuals.

Dr Stefanie Zollmann, a former Animation Research visual computing expert now based at Otago University, wants to change that.

She and fellow researchers will draw on new technologies like AR so details like scoring, penalties, team statistics and player information can be shown before spectators - even tailored to where they're sitting in a stadium.

How will it be done?

The approach makes use of hardware that we already have - our smartphones.

"Spectators already bring their own devices and use them often extensively during events for social media, capturing photos and also for accessing information about the current event," Zollmann said.

"Our project focuses on how to provide augmented reality content on the mobile phones of those spectators."

While the main concept had already been mapped out, Otago researchers would be teaming up with international experts to solve some of the biggest challenges.

One was gaining an accurate, fast estimation of the users' phones positioning and viewing direction within the venue.

Another was providing visualisation techniques adapted for small devices, and which could be used amid the dynamic environment of a stadium.

For promoters, such technology gave them something new to draw punters away from living rooms and pubs.

But for computer scientists like herself, breakthroughs in estimating positioning and orientation within large environments meant they could push further beyond the horizon.

"With this project, we will revolutionise the way how we experience on-site sport events by bringing relevant content directly into the field of view of on-site spectators," she said.

"We also think that there is a huge potential to apply the developed technology for other applications such as sports training or performance analysis, where onsite real-time feedback is also becoming increasingly important."

The study is being supported with a million-dollar grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Endeavour Fund.