Can Pokemon Go make baseball fun again?

In a few years from now, we’ll fondly recall the days when people who went to baseball games went there to watch baseball.

Major League Baseball has increasingly tried to provide a “fan experience” that involves more than just the game and it’s about to take the next step.

If it sounds like Pokemon Go for baseball, that might not be a coincidence.

This week, a group of Google former employees picked up $7 million from a high-profile investor group to build an all-in-one mobile app development tool for people who go to games. One of the investors is Major League Baseball, Forbes reports.

Xperiel’s app-development tool also lets stadium owners and sports teams create mobile apps that use a smartphone’s sensors in conjunction with so-called beacons that stadium operators can place throughout the facility. These beacons transmit wireless signals that can be picked up by a fan’s smartphone and can trigger certain events within a mobile app to make a more compelling experience for fans. For example, a sports team could create a mobile app in which each time familiar fans enter the stadium and walk by a certain big screen, a nearby beacon would sense that they are near and trigger the fans’ faces to come on screen.

“It welcomes you,” said Alex Hertel. “It provides that level of personalization.”

That’s cute, but that’s not really where the technology will change the fan experience. This scenario from CNBC is:

At Dodger Stadium, that could mean getting a digital puzzle piece after scanning a ticket and another for buying a drink. Get all four pieces and collect a bobblehead.

Sound familiar?

Creators of the high-profile augmented reality game Pokémon Go “have done a fantastic job tapping into millennial energy,” [Sun Microsystems’ co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim] added, saying that he believes the tool can perhaps lead to more people creating similar popular apps.

CNBC says the ex-Googlers want to make baseball fun again.

  • jon

    The gamification of going to watch a game?

    Too Meta for me.

  • rallysocks

    “create a mobile app in which each time familiar fans enter the stadium and walk by a certain big screen, a nearby beacon would sense that they are near and trigger the fans’ faces to come on screen.

    “It welcomes you,” said Alex Hertel. “It provides that level of personalization.”

    DO. NOT. WANT.

  • Jeff

    I played a little Pokemon Go at the game I went to a few weeks ago…it wasn’t too bad.

  • Al


    Also: GET OFF MY LAWN.

    • tboom

      Thanks for the reply. I’m at a complete loss for words when someone says they will “make baseball fun again”. AND MLB is part of it!

  • Sam M

    Just another “loyalty” program…. genius. Actually the real genius is the spin that it’s about “fan experience”.

  • The scene as we walk into the “new digital” ballpark:

  • The stadiums of tomorrow will do away with on-site advertising. Instead, there will be blank walls everywhere so that our augmented vision can serve us personalized ads on every surface.

    Obligatory Pokemon Go at Target Field shot:

    • The promotional giveaway at this game was Twins-branded Google Cardboard for the “Twins Virtual Reality Experience” — i.e. looking around a panoramic shot of Target Field. Until they put GoPros on the mascot racers so I can stream Babe the Ox’s POV, I’ll pass on the VR

  • Fred, Just Fred

    I read an interesting article the other day, about advances in AI, and it occurred to me how easily we give up the smallest details of ourselves, our families and our lives through seemingly innocuous means like game apps.

    Seems, as it rolls out, slowly, the masters of the universe (MOU) are not calling for AI powered, self-guided hunterkiller drones…it’s actually more insidious and potentially far more damaging to our daily lives.

    Digital information is gathered every day, through cameras, web sites, retail sales outlets, and especially software apps we load on our personal devices. We used to console ourselves that there was so much data out there, pinpointing information on an individual (me) was impossible….”they” were just gathering metadata.

    Not so much; not any more.

    There are smart people out there writing software, and creating machines to run it, that can sift through Terabytes in minutes; create precision models of any characteristic the MOU care to examine, in hours.

    The first generation of AI machines can learn and adapt to the processing of quantitative data. At the moment, a good analyst can create models at a rate of one or two per week.

    But the advent of AI will bring machines that can create thousands of models every week and make decisions regarding that data in milliseconds. This will not just be a way to work more efficiently — it will dramatically alter our relationships with data and what we can accomplish.

    Next time you download an app, take a moment to see what utilities and data you are forced to give it access to, and consider what a relational database powered by an incredibly powerful AI backbone might do with it.

    • Sam M

      I’m surprised you haven’t curled up in the fetal position due to paranoia….

  • BReynolds33

    Augmented reality is the next thing. It was already a thing, but Pokemon showed it can be a thing the average person will consume. It would be far more interesting to have an app that, when i held it up, it knew the positions, who was playing those positions, stats, where I can get a jersey, news about the players, etc.

    • Having the statcast info that the MLB Network shows during games would be a cool augmented reality idea. After each pitch, I could see the velocity, effective velocity and spin rate stats without looking at my phone!

      • If baseball wanted to do somethign REALLY good for the game, it’d eliminate the local blackouts on MLB.Tv.

        • Sam M

          How would that be good for the game? Only seam heads care about that and they will follow either way.

          • Mike

            I’d pay top dollar not to hear the FSN broadcast team.

          • What’s a seam head?

          • Sam M

            Any person who subscribes to MLB Network or a big baseball fan.

          • asiljoy

            How would that not be good? I don’t have cable and don’t want to pay for it plus the add-on package to see them play. If I was a Twins fan who lived in New York, I wouldn’t have to.

          • Sam M

            My point was that it’s a small change that wouldn’t increase overall viewership or interest.

          • asiljoy

            My point was that you’re discounting the entire cord-cutting generation who happen to like their local major league baseball team; we’re willing to pay $150 to watch a season, but $100 a month is too much to eat.

          • Not to mention fans of out of market teams that come into THIS market. Seems to me baseball’s enslavement at the hands of the Murdoch empire is not healthy for the sport.

            And it’s certainly not fan friendly. I think being fan friendly is the best interest of the game. OK, so actually being able to SEE the game isn’t as good as a scavenger hunt, but still…. :*)

          • Sam M

            I guess my point or question is would it really make a noticeable difference in the popularity of the sport. I feel like there are other areas of the game that could be changed that would have a much larger impact.

          • Sam M

            You really think that would move the needle that much on the sport… me thinks not. If cord cutting was that large of a group they would attempt to gain the market some other way. They are making money with the system they have now.

          • Moving the needle. I guess it depends on to where you want to move it. I just think it’s a good idea that baseball fans be able to get access to watching the team of their choice.

          • Sam M

            They can’t? I’m confused. They can watch on FSN locally or they can watch on MLB. I don’t understand how you can’t watch whatever you want. This isn’t the NFL:)

          • No, they can’t. You need cable AND you need to subscribe to the tier that has FSN. All local games are blacked out for EVERYBODY.

            As more people cut the cord and as more streaming services become a dominant media, continuing the blackout is ill advised.

            also, the wild card playoff game is blacked out nationally as are the divisional playoff games. Not until the World Series can a fan who does not have a cable package have the option of watching a postseason game.

          • asiljoy

            The original query was if it was good for the game. I quantify good as increasing interest/love of the game, which is easier to do when the barrier to entry is lowered for actually viewing said game.

            They are making oodles of money now, absolutely, not gonna argue that.

  • MarkUp

    My parents thoroughly enjoyed the lightning show as the game was washed out last night.