As augmented reality continues its collision course with mainstream adoption, the technology will now have a role in one of the most anticipated boxing matches of the year.
On Saturday, the much-hyped rematch between challenger Tyson Fury and champion Deontay Wilder (the fighters who previously fought to a draw in Dec. 2018) will take place at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
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To capitalize on the moment, AR studio Imagination Park has created an AR experience featuring legendary boxing and mixed martial arts cutman Jacob "Stitch" Duran, who will work in Fury's corner for the match.
The experience is available worldwide through the end of February via the ImagineAR mobile app available on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Upon launching the app, users can access the experience by selecting "AR Near Me" from the menu and then choosing from one of the three AR Nearby! options appearing on the bottom of the screen. Once in the AR experience, users can place 2D cartoon renditions of Stitch (a familiar face at every major UFC match and then at Bellator) in their environment by aligning the guidelines in the camera view on a horizontal surface.
In addition, the best AR photo captured by users via the app will receive a Stitch Prize Package from Imagination Park. To be eligible, users must share their photo via Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook under the hashtag #StitchWithMe.
As augmented reality is on the verge of becoming a staple in the advertising world, Imagination Park is also flipping the script by buying some traditional advertising to promote itself during the fight as well. Stitch will wear an ad for ImagineAR.com, promoting the company as an "AR as a service" product for publishing AR content on his vest.
"Imagination Park is absolutely thrilled to be a part of this historic rematch represented by Stitch in Tyson Fury's Corner," said Alen Paul Silverrstieen, CEO and president of Imagination Park, in a statement. "We are the first-ever augmented reality company to be represented at such a historic sports event by a legend in both boxing and UFC for decades. Millions of sports fans worldwide will see our ImagineAR logo and website on Stitch's vest in the ring."
The company has previously published AR content for NBA team the Sacramento Kings and minor league baseball team Erie SeaWolves, but this experience is the company's biggest sports-related activation.
The role of sports in the cultural landscape, particularly via social media, makes augmented reality content an ideal technology to engage audiences.
For example, for Super Bowl LIV earlier this month, Snapchat provided several AR experiences, with a reaction lenses featuring game highlights and front-facing camera effects being the most accessible. In addition, several advertisers, namely Verizon, TurboTax, Pepsi, Tide, and Mountain Dew ran sponsored AR experiences in conjunction with the game.
Elsewhere, USA Today has run AR stories on the NHL All-Star Game and the Women's World Cup, while The New York Times and the Washington Post have both published AR content for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
As AR experiences become commonplace for sport's biggest moments, the technology has the momentum to become standard at practically any sporting event.