The Atlanta Braves aren’t shy when it comes to taking risks with tech — as we’ve already seen, the high-speed network at SunTrust Park has already proven an asset when it comes to fan engagement and mobility use. Now, following their first foray into geolocation augmented reality to help fans navigate, they have implemented additional emerging technology features throughout the park.
This season, with the help of Major League Baseball, the Braves have taken some giant leaps forward into turning The Battery and SunTrust Park into a full-on mixed reality experience.
“We’re really driven and intrigued by new technologies,” says Greg Mize, Braves Senior Director, Marketing and Innovation. Mize says that, although many are focused on the applications of AR and VR for sports viewing at home, they’re more concerned with what happens in the ballpark.
To that end, the Braves and MLB have built a VR “Home Run Derby”, an immersive experience where the fan can put on goggles, pick up a bat, and for a minute and a half, practice swinging and hitting it out of the park at the home run plate. It’s based off a VR activation created for the MLB All-Star Game.
The experience, which is free, is located in the Kids Zone at the Park, but Mize says adults have been engaging as well.
Another area in the park employs augmented reality — an immersive experience that doesn’t require special equipment like goggles — to showcase Braves history.
“One of the ideas we’ve been playing around with is this way to have a connected experience between the physical space and the mobile space as it related to Braves history,” says Mize.
That activation can be seen in Monument Garden, a section of the ballpark that displays different items from the Braves history. Using their phone, fans can scan a placard next to each item to unlock an immersive video with information about that artifact. One example is the knee brace former Braves player Sid Bream wore following his series-winning slide in the 1992 National League Championship Series.
“It’s meant to be a little more immersive, but at the core, connecting to our history and our tradition,” says Mize.
Mize points out that the team is committed to not just using technology for the sake of it, but to really add on to the experience of anyone visiting SunTrust Park.
“We look at everything we’re doing and say ‘what is the end result of this? What is the value that we’re delivering to the fans?’ As opposed to just saying ‘We’re doing AR for the sake of doing it’. We really want it to be tied to something that’s relevant and useful to the fans.”
Nowhere is this more clear than in the latest updates to the Braves app, which is consistently used by about 30 percent of those that visit the ballpark. The latest update to the app contains new features to help fans navigate better and more efficiently, such as an AI assistant feature that allows those who need it to request a wheelchair, which will be waiting for them as soon as they step off the shuttle.
Mize explains that the app allows for a seamless transition from an automated reply to a live customer service agent to help the individual get exactly what they need. They’re seeing 8-10 requests per game already for the first few weeks of the season and expect it to scale up as more become aware of the feature.