The following interview is part of our ongoing Expert Series that asks C-level professionals, team presidents, league executives, athletic directors and other sports influencers about their latest thoughts and insights on new technologies impacting the sports industry.
Name: Gary Haymann
Company: NEXREF Technologies
Position: Chief Executive Officer/Co-Founder
Gary Haymann is the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of NEXREF Technologies, a company on the cutting edge of augmented reality that helps fan communities engage fans, monetize and amplify brands including the Denver Broncos, Coca-Cola, Bud Light, Conoco, DC Comics and Pizza Hut, among others.
Haymann also has extensive experience in sales, product development and design. As a partner and EVP of Sales for USA Shade, Gary spent 15 years developing new markets and applications for airports, automotive clients and cities across the U.S. Haymann is now using his two decades of practical knowledge in pioneering new products to change how brands connect with fans and consumers.
Haymann was a college wrestler while obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Sales from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. He now lives in Dallas with his wife, two daughters and son with a passion for wakeboarding, surfing and triathlons.
1) What utilization of NEXREF’s augmented reality platform in professional or college sports has recently blown you away and why?
We were blown away by the sheer enthusiasm fans had for augmented reality in the “Scan the Can” promotion we did for the Denver Broncos and Bud Light. Being able to connect the enthusiasm from game time to the point of purchase for the sponsor is a leap that AR transverses easily.
2) If you had to invest in one technology that would alter the sports landscape, what would it be and why?
Virtual reality training. The ability to let athletes practice without stepping on the field will be revolutionary in terms of taking player performance to the next level. Teams may only be allowed to have four sessions with live tackling and blocking, but with virtual reality, a player can step on the field and practice running routes with a full-padded defender charging their weak side — doing as many sessions as needed to improve the skill set.
3) If money were no object, what technology would you build or buy to help you do your job better?
Artificial intelligence to help personalize and manage media assets. We are creating more and more assets than ever before, from video and animation to graphics, audio and more. Add to that many platforms and devices and it becomes difficult to truly personalize messages. Artificial intelligence promises to give us much more control over our media assets and to target consumers with ever increasing accuracy.
4) If you had to project 20 years into the future, how will most fans watch their favorite sports teams?
I envision that we’ll experience sports in a fully immersive sensory way that brings together the best AR, VR and AI to allow fans to interact with the players, game and event in ways we don’t even understand yet. This area is bursting with innovation now so in 20 years, we will be seeing technology that isn’t yet conceived. That is pretty exciting to me.
5) Give us your bold prediction about a form of technology that will be integral to sports in general over the next 12 months and why?
I think VR and AR will see huge growth in sports in the next 12 months. But not in the usual ways. For example, the University of Minnesota used VR for a recruiting drive. They wanted to recruit people from warmer climates while combating the perception that Minnesota is freezing cold, inhospitable climate. They created VR experiences of game day, running out on the field, pep rallies — giving them the experience of being a Minnesota player. It’s the next best thing to being there in the 21st century.