The Wearable Revolution Could Be a Boon for Sports Fans

I had big hopes for my Pebble smartwatch. I envisioned a time when I could just leave my phone in my pocket or bag, and go hours and hours without having to dig it out. I could be such an engaging tablemate at restaurants. I could ride public transit and smirk at all the suckers who are glued to their devices. I would be free. Free from distraction, free from the rectangular device that has taken over my life.

Don’t get me wrong, my Pebble works just fine. It does exactly what I wanted and even more. But I am still a servant. I’m still always glancing, always clicking. Only it’s at my wrist instead of my phone. While this is an upgrade of sorts, I have learned to accept and embrace my technology overlords. Everything is still coming to me — every email from my fantasy league, every Google chat from my friends, every text from my wife — it’s just coming in a slightly more convenient way. That is, if you assume glancing at your wrist is more convenient than glancing at your phone

The Pebble has a few useful apps, but its main selling point is notifications. It relies on whatever notifications my iPhone sends me. If the phone gets it, the watch gets it. The usual fare is offered — email, text messages, etc. — but it also works with notifications from nearly any other app. When I go to a ballgame, my watch (via my MLB At the Ballpark app) welcomes me to the field. When a player on my fantasy roster has been put on the DL, my watch (via my fantasy apps) alerts me. When my beloved Astros are about to take the field, my wrist vibrates. The same goes for when they take or give up the lead. It goes on and on. This may sound annoying, but I wouldn’t be honest if I said I didn’t love it. The sports fan in me loves the updates, and the tech geek in me loves that it’s happening on my watch.

But the Pebble is a one-way street for the most part. There’s no communicating back to it. If I miss the scoring alert of the Astros game, I need to pull out my phone. If I want to check my roster to make sure my matchups are correct, out comes the phone. It’s passive. It’s a message from a carrier pigeon. It’s a fortune cookie.

Which is why the news surrounding the new round of wearable devices is so encouraging as a sports fan. Earlier this year, Google announced Android Wear, a platform for running Android apps on third-party wearable hardware, which may be getting a significant update soon. Samsung just announced their line of Gear S watches, which offers both voice and teeny-tiny keyboard input. And, of course, Apple is expected to announce their own line of wearable tech next week. The details are still fuzzy on this device, but the ability to run current iOS apps (or at least modded versions of them) isn’t out of the question. All these devices offer a good deal more of interaction. Finally, there will be a tin can on the other end of the string.

Android Wear can already offer some help for sports fans. The integration with voice search allows the user to just simply ask their watch what the score of the Giants game is. If Apple integrates Siri with it’s watches, it should allow this functionality as well. Android Wear offers pushed notifications much like the Pebble, as well. As wearable technology becomes more common, it’s easy to see tighter integration with fantasy apps, news apps from ESPN or CBS Sports, even the ability to simply pull up scores from across the league without the need for pushed alerts. The ability to change a fantasy roster from your wrist, or send your friend a taunting text after seeing his favorite team’s latest score without the need for digging a phone out of a pocket or purse is on the horizon. Who wouldn’t want to see a towering Giancarlo Stanton home run pushed to their wrist? An injury report from their favorite team at the ready with their phone still tucked away? Is and Sunday Ticket streaming video on a watch that far down the road?

I may be getting carried away, or I could be just scratching the surface. Pebble’s Kickstarter ended in May of 2012. A little over two years later, we’re ready to accept the next great swarm of wearable tech into (and onto) our arms. If things play out more or less as expected, I’ll still have my phone in my bag. That familiar blue glow will be coming from from wrist instead.

(Header photo via Maurizio Pesce)

David G. Temple is the Managing Editor of TechGraphs and a contributor to FanGraphs, NotGraphs and The Hardball Times. He hosts the award-eligible podcast Stealing Home. Dayn Perry once called him a "Bible Made of Lasers." Follow him on Twitter @davidgtemple.

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