If you caught the Cavs take on the Spurs last night, you might have noticed something entirely new on the court. ESPN debuted its "Virtual 3" technology during the broadcast, with the goal of making it clearer when a shot is inside three-point range.
Like the augmented reality used to show the yellow first down line during NFL games, "Virtual 3" highlights the three-point arc in red if a shot is attempted in range. If the shot's a brick, the line immediately turns off, and if the shot goes in, the highlight remains until the other team gains possession. Like in the NFL, the call made by the augmented system is not official, and official replays will still be used for certain shots.
The tech represents the first major introduction of augmented reality to NBA broadcasts. The implementation (captured in GIF form courtesy of our friends at SB Nation) looks slick. Sure, it's not really necessary, but it's not too obnoxious, and it can provide some useful information on close shots.
Unfortunately the same can't be said for ESPN's persistent "K-Zone" during baseball games, which is in denial about balls and strikes being an imprecise science. Even worse, it's massively distracting. That didn't stop ESPN from layering it on top of all of its MLB broadcasts last season — only time will tell if the "Virtual 3" has the same staying power.
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