Utah Jazz helped a young blind fan see game for first time with eSight glasses

Monday May 8th, 2017

There’s a mission within the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, which owns the Utah Jazz and Vivint Smart Home Arena, among other sports and entertainment properties.

Enrich people’s lives.

With that in mind, Josh Barney—Director of Technology & Innovation for Vivint Smart Home Arena—told SportTechie he has tasked himself with discovering technologies that will “help make people’s experience better when they come see a Jazz game or come to the arena.”

Over the course of the 2016-17 season, Barney said he saw a fan at an Indianapolis Colts game wearing eyeglasses provided by eSight, a company that has a high-speed, high-definition camera that magnifies what a fan is viewing and brings it to life in front of their eyes.

“I was like, ‘Wow, this has got to happen,’” said Barney of leveraging the eSight technology for a Jazz fan.

Little did Barney know that earlier this year, a Jazz fan named Jeff Carter sent a tweet to the team asking if it had anything to help fans who were visually impaired to enjoy a game. Carter’s seven-year-old son, Landon, was legally blind and born without irises, making everything blurry.

After doing some research on eSight and discovering that there were about 50,000 people in Utah who were legally visually impaired, Barney presented his case to a group of senior executives about why utilizing eSight was beneficial for the organization.

According to Barney, that’s when Rob Nish, Marketing Director for Vivint Smart Home Arena, mentioned the tweet from the elder Carter that never made its way to Barney. Nish asked if the team ended up working with eSight, could Landon be the first use case for the technology?

“Absolutely,” Barney said.

After a green light from senior leadership, Barney and the Jazz reached back out to Carter, inviting Landon to Game 3 of the first round playoff game against the Los Angeles Clippers so he could watch his hometown team. 

“Watching Landon do something for the very first time and see something he had never seen before, that was everything for me and the team,” said Barney, who added that the experience hit close to home as he has a close family member in a similar situation.

With the new eSight relationship and after the experience with the Carters, Barney said that he’s hopeful that the Jazz can have eight to 10 eSight glasses available to fans in the arena to use starting next season. The only hurdles, as Barney described, are that the technology requires a fan to have some visual acuity to use them. At the same time, a fan would need his or her own prescription lens.

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As a result, Barney is in the process of figuring out a solution with eSight so that if a person wants to purchase the prescription portion of the glasses, the Jazz and arena will provide the camera portion, which sell for about $10,000 a piece.

“That’s the real logistical problem right now,” he said.

With the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies also having a number of movie theaters and a AAA minor league baseball team in the Salt Lake Bees under the umbrella, Barney said he’s excited about the possibilities of extending the eSight technology to more fans and consumers within the state, even if it means not necessarily moving the needle from a financial standpoint.

“I don’t expect to make a dime out of this. If we end up selling a few extra tickets because of it, that’s great,” said Barney about using eSight with the Jazz and Vivint Smart Home Arena. “At the end of the day, if we gain new fans and something beyond just the dollars and cents, for me that’s incredibly worthwhile.”

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