Twins Bring Augmented Reality to Target Field
Starting today, Twins fans can throw beach balls and donuts onto the field, destroy towers that erupt in the outfield and go fishing on the pitcher’s mound. Welcome to the “Twiniverse,” a first-of-its-kind stadium-level augmented reality experience created by Minneapolis-based startup ARound.
Rather than escaping reality in the metaverse, ARound’s new app is designed to augment it by layering graphics, games, data and interaction onto a live experience in a physical space, starting with Target Field. ARound uses 3D special computing to localize content to individual users throughout the venue, enabling 40,000 Target Field attendees to see the same real-time 3D effects and participate in shared experiences by pointing their smartphones at the field.
“Right now people are on their screens, even at a live event, doing individual things,” said ARound founder and CEO Josh Beatty. “We’re taking it from looking down to reflecting the environment and laying possibilities that get your imagination running. It’s really a sandbox where creativity and community can thrive.”
For the Twins, live AR is just the latest in a series of high-tech experiments including a pop-up gaming lounge and an immersive sound experience aimed at engaging digital natives. The Twins launched their own Techstars accelerator program in 2021 to “push the Minnesota Twins brand beyond baseball by innovating,” Chris Iles, the team’s senior director of brand experience and innovation, has said. The Twins will announce their second Techstars cohort in November.
Beatty approached the team independent of the accelerator. A serial entrepreneur who previously founded modulR, a mobile workforce application, Beatty left a job as brand and digital strategy director for Minneapolis-based Yamamoto to develop ARound with the support of Stagwell, a digital marketing network and holding company that includes Minneapolis firms Colle McVoy, Mono, and Yamamoto. Beatty won Stagwell’s annual Shark Tank-style competition, which gave him seed money to get started on ARound. He’s hired a team of five developers and designers to work on the platform.
The initial rollout this week is aimed at “casual fans”—kids, and others most likely to turn to their phones for entertainment during a game. The app is free to download, and for now its working features are limited to a few games and the ability to throw things onto the field and see who else in the stadium is doing so. “A big challenge for teams is how to engage casual fans. Watching a game is passive. We’re allowing them to become part of the action, and feel more involved.”
The next phase of ARound’s rollout will be aimed at fanatics, Beatty said. “When Byron Buxton steps up to the plate, you’ll be able to see him (through the app) larger than life, see his last 10 hits, the percentage of where he hits most on the field.” But that will require Major League Baseball to give the startup access to data—something the Twins are helping Beatty’s company to work on. So far, the Twins have no financial stake in the ARound technology—their support has come in the form of access to the stadium and advice.
But the team sees the potential not just for fan engagement, but for sponsorships, said Matt Hodson, senior manager of business communications for the Twins. Imagine, for example, a virtual blimp flying across the screen with a company logo.
“We are constantly trying to evolve, adapt, and provide experiences people have never had before,” Hodson said. “If we can be at the forefront of doing that, with a Minneapolis company no less, we’re thrilled.”