Roost: engaging digital natives in the analogue world of sports

Project proposal case study: Roost

Project owner: Greg Buckley, Postgraduate Certificate in Connected Environments graduate

The challenge:

As President of the BMX Club in East Auckland, Greg noticed a decline in participation from the younger generation. He came to realise a big part was driven from the simple fact the club was speaking analogue to a digitally native audience – it wasn’t connecting in a way the younger generation gets excited. 

In a broader context, sport participation across Aotearoa New Zealand has been in decline.

So Greg framed up his challenge to see how technology could encourage an increase in participation specifically in BMX riding with a view to expand out to other competition based sports.

The idea:

A long time advocate for using technology to ‘augment the human experience’ Greg wanted to use wearable sensor-based tech to create a bridge between a physical activity and a virtual experience. Wearable technology in sports garments is on the rise, from helmets to boots and shirts, as well as sports equipment like BMX bikes.

Imagine this: a live BMX event where riders from around the world compete in the same event, whether they’re based in the US, France, Australia or Aotearoa New Zealand. And in that same event is a global audience, interacting, engaging and supporting their favourite riders. eSports draws some comparisons, but Greg’s view is that it’s still just creating an ‘other world existence’. What Greg wanted in his idea was for the main focus to still be on the physical athlete and the real world action.

The solution:

From this idea, Roost was created. It’s a digital platform that brings the world together for a single sporting event. Using wearable sensor-based technology, 5G connectivity and edge computing as well as drawing on Greg’s background in media entertainment, Roost is a completely new way to think about sporting events. It leverages that brand new world environment that we’re starting to see where digital and analogue compliment each other rather than compete.

The considerations:

One obvious one is timezones – but it’s not insurmountable, especially when so much of the viewer engagement can be done in the comfort of home. That aside, real-time connectivity is fundamental as well as reliable wearable technology that easily integrates with the Roost platform. But the idea is coming together at just the right time, with both the challenges of a world recovering from a pandemic and finding ways to reduce unnecessary travel teamed with the exponential rise of connectivity technology and smart garment development.

Conversations with garment manufacturers are providing insight into how Roost might evolve into a proposition that’s industry wide, rather than sports specific.

The future:

Roost is a passion project right now for Greg, working his full time role as the Innovation and Transformation Architect at the Heavy Engineering Research Association (HERA). But passion is fuel for Greg Buckley and he knows himself well enough to know he’s not going to let this awesome concept just fizzle out. It’ll either go down in a ball of flames, or smash through onto the world stage. We’re cheering for the latter.

If you’d like to learn more about using connected environments to solve a problem you’ve got, find out more about our Postgraduate Certificate in Connected Environments.

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