Google Pixel Opens Door to NBA Metaverse Experience
Google and the NBA are opening a kind of basketball metaverse thanks to a partnership to promote the NBA Playoffs. The ne Google Pixel Arena offers fans a chance to play and show off virtual basketball skills including with their own virtual being avatars.
The Google Pixel Arena will open during halftime and between games on the NBA app. Despite the branding, any smartphone with the NBA app can access the arena. When open, users can pick a current or previous game and enter a three-dimensional baseball arena to explore via the phone’s gyroscope. Users can make their own virtual players wearing their chosen team’s uniform and accessories to explore the arena and even the virtual locker room. There are also trivia games during each half-time offering virtual rewards for high-scoring players.
“The experience brings a whole new meaning to courtside. During half time and post-game, you can relive how top scorers and teams performed with a 3D shot recaps that map shots to the Pixel Arena court based on real-time NBA data from the first half of the game,” Google explained in a blog post. “With each game you attend, you have more opportunities to climb the leaderboard, create shareable content and unlock new levels and swag for your avatar.”
The new virtual arena is part of a larger deal between Google and the NBA that includes the Google Pixel becoming the NBA’s official fan phone and presenting sponsor. The NBA is also turning to Google for data analysis and public trend watching and hired Magic Johnson to show off the Magic Eraser feature for the new Google Pixel.
The metaverse experiment fits with some other basketball tech projects underway. NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently showcased an early version of an AI-powered basketball coach for the metaverse. The (NBA Augmented Telepresence) or “Coach Nat” combines computer-generated basketball moves with a coach’s voice that is almost certainly Shaquille O’Neal. While Google dominates the NBA playoffs, Meta sponsored the ESPN and ABC games this season.
Meta’s Oculus Quest headsets are livestreaming the games for free in virtual reality from carefully placed camera arrays. The metaverse tests have even extended to the team level, with the Brooklyn Nets launching the Netaverse, a 3D virtual sports viewing arena specifically for its fans. Coach Nat is part of the NBA’s plan to leverage technology to reach more viewers and encourage kids to play and care about basketball, even if no AI or other coach will change the dismal odds of going pro.