Instant replay, Glass-style. Source: NHL video via APX Labs

Google Bangs the Glass for NHL's Caps

Kavitha A. Davidson is a former Bloomberg View columnist.
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The Washington Capitals may be trailing in the hunt for a playoff spot, but they're ahead of the curve in wearable technology.

The Caps have teamed up with APX Labs to develop Skybox, a Google Glass app designed to enhance fans' in-game experience. Skybox allows the wearer to view real-time stats, player profiles, in-game replays, highlights and more thanks to a video feed pumped directly from the Verizon Center's production team. The effort is part of Google's recently launched Glass at Work program, in which enterprise software developers create third-party smartglasses apps to serve their businesses and customers.

Skybox has the potential to completely transform the fan experience, increasing a team's revenues along the way. Fans would no longer have to wait for a stoppage of play to visit the concession stands, since they could continue to follow the game through their glasses. In theory, the app could also serve to somewhat democratize stadium seating by increasing the value of cheaper seats with worse views. Fans would receive the same array of various camera angles regardless of the cost and location of their seats.

Of course, at $1,500, Glass remains prohibitively expensive -- more so than even center-ice seats to a Caps game, which top out around $200. Skybox also runs the risk of being too much of a good thing; some might be wary of the over-stimulation of having that much information in their face as a game is played in front of them, while all those graphics and stats might serve to distract from, not enhance, the live action.

These are all important considerations for hockey, one of the few sports that still lays claim to a better experience in-person than on television -- that is, if you can score good seats. The advent of DVR and various home theater goodies like NFL Red Zone have made football more attractive in televised form, highlighted by the NFL's ever-soaring ratings despite struggles to sell out even playoff games. The NHL, however, continues to lag behind on the small screen while posting impressive attendance numbers: With less than a week to go in the 2013-14 regular season, 13 teams have averaged at least 100 percent capacity in their home arenas. Hockey fans clearly prefer to get their fix in the stands, with or without Google Glass.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

(Kavitha A. Davidson is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about sports. Follow her on Twitter at @kavithadavidson.)

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Kavitha A Davidson at

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