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USA Today's Super Bowl "Reality" App: Not Ready for Prime Time

Super Bowl is the time of year when companies show off their technology to the public, but more often than not it ends up being style over substance. The latest victim is USA Today, which, with tech partner junaio, has created a Super Bowl augmented reality app that will have no real relevance to anyone -- even the most feverish pigskin fan. It is a waste of potential.

Wander around the stadium - how fun
Designed for the Apple (APPL) iPhone and iPad, and the Google (GOOG) Android mobiles, the USA Today Super Bowl app allows users to virtually walk around the Dallas Cowboys Texas Stadium. Augmented reality means that the device runs like a moving camera: Turn it to the left or the right and the virtual view will move accordingly.

junaio has great technology here, but the problem is that the interactions are limited. The user can virtually walk around Texas Stadium: Across the field, pass the concession stands, etc. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones does a voiceover discussing stats on the stadium. This is the level of interactivity brought in 2011, which is the equivalent of a virtual museum tour. Pretty much the same experience and information can be found during a pre-game show vignette before any Super Bowl game.

Want to follow the game? Turn on the TV
Worse, the augmented reality app lacks what hardcore pigskin fans really crave: Statistics. The original app, which is out today, focuses on the virtual tour of the stadium. USA Today and junaio are planning an update with information on the big game -- sometime on Monday. The companies promise to simulate different plays within the virtual environment, but there are several reasons why the Monday morning quarterback strategy won't cut it.

First, football fans want to follow the game while it is happening, but the app isn't going to be updated with statistics on Super Bowl Sunday. They will have to actually turn on the TV, the radio, or a dozen other better media mediums to find out what's happening right now with the Super Bowl.

Second, the augmented reality coverage lacks the intimacy other storytelling mediums will provide. How did, say, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger feel after he successfully threw a seemingly impossible pass? No interviews, no live footage, and no news stories are expected in the app -- just a virtual replay of what happened. Fans would probably be better off just reading The Daily.

Sometimes it is better to back off new technology until it can be used as effectively as current technology, as shown with Fox wisely opting not to do this year's Super Bowl telecast in 3D. USA Today's app is a unique approach to football coverage, but it is ultimately a waste of time for even hardcore football fans -- and a waste of money for both companies involved.

Photo courtesy of daveynin // CC 2.0

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