Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Illini Partner with UI Class to Create Virtual Dugout Smartphone Application

April 2, 2012

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., April 2, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — The University of Illinois baseball team has partnered with the UI College of Media’s Journalism 460 course to create “Virtual Dugout,” the first mobile application ever produced by the college. Illinois students from the departments of journalism, advertising, art and design, electrical and computer engineering, statistics and computer science have created an iOS and Android app that is designed to enhance the fan experience at Illinois baseball games this spring.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20120402/SF80712)

The Virtual Dugout app, powered by Aurasma’s leading augmented reality platform, was recently approved for download in the Apple App Store and the Android Market. It is available for download for iOS and for Android.

“We are always looking for ways to engage our fans and build our fan base, and I think this is a great way to combine the tradition of the game of baseball with the cutting-edge nature of mobile technology that many of us use every day,” Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. “I’m very excited to see the app and I hope our fans enjoy using it at Illinois Field as we contend for another Big Ten title this year.”

Virtual Dugout is designed to add to the experience of watching an Illinois baseball game by offering a variety of features, including short videos of many of the Illini players that are designed to go beneath the surface. Learn what goes through a shortstop’s mind as he’s turning a double play or how a starting pitcher mentally prepares for a game. Hear stories of players battling through long injury rehabilitations and coming together to form a successful team, like the 2011 Illinois squad that battled back from a 12-21 start to share the Big Ten regular-season title, win the Big Ten Tournament title and advance to the championship game of the NCAA Fullerton Regional tournament.

The videos will be triggered by scanning a player’s baseball card or other item and the app will make the card “come alive,” with the still image becoming a video clip on the user’s smartphone. Fans also will have access to live statistics and updated season and career statistics through the app, as well as the upcoming “Win Probability Mode,” which displays the effect of each play on the probability of an Illini victory.

The Virtual Dugout project is being led by assistant professor of journalism Charles “Stretch” Ledford, who specializes in multimedia journalism. He first saw the Aurasma technology, which drives the “Augmented Reality Mode” within the Virtual Dugout app, demonstrated at a conference in Boston in late 2011. The augmented reality platform made a printed photograph come alive as a video on the demonstrator’s smartphone and that inspired Ledford to investigate ways to utilize that technology in a journalistic way.

Watch a player’s card come alive in this video.

“One of my goals is to find innovative ways to bring relevant information to audiences who are increasingly accustomed to communication that is delivered across a variety of screens,” Ledford said. “To me, this means not just moving print content online, or making online content mobile; it means creating a user experience that’s as engaging as ‘Angry Birds’ but much more informative. As a visual creator who started shooting black-and-white photographs for newspapers 30 years ago and eventually transitioned into producing short films for Internet distribution, I immediately knew that this marriage of still photography with video, of the physical with the virtual, could be a game-changer.

“Creating an app of this complexity is no small task,” Ledford continued. “The students’ tenacity and creativity continues to exceed my expectations, whether they’re coding, designing, reporting, shooting or advertising. They have reinforced another of my closely held maxims: innovation in journalism means being a teacher, a leader and an advocate for enterprising young people like those on the Virtual Dugout team, and then getting out of their way while they do great things.”

Aurasma’s general manager Jennifer Rapp added, “Colleges and universities continue to be a leader and innovator with Aurasma’s technology, mainly due to the students’ passion and drive. It’s inspiring to see the students at Illinois take the initiative and design creative use cases on top of Aurasma’s platform. Applications like Virtual Dugout are putting this unique experience in the hands of our future leaders and making augmented reality become part of our everyday reality.”

Ledford can be reached at stretch@illinois.edu.

SOURCE University of Illinois; Aurasma

Source: PR Newswire