The hockey fans that will welcome CrowdWave: Those who eagerly anticipate "the wave" starting in the upper deck during the third period and can name their favorite audience participation game on the Jumbotron between the whistles.
The hockey fans that will loathe CrowdWave: The ones who cheer on their own terms, not the scoreboard's and openly mock those A.D.D. arcade dwellers playing "Dance Dance Revolution" while trying to find a good game of Ms. Pac-Man.
No matter your personality profile, there appears to be no avoiding the fact that CrowdWave technology signals the future of the arena-going fan experience. It debuted in the NHL this season at Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets and Atlanta Thrashers games; and the Ottawa-based company is in talks with other franchises.
CrowdWave's unique in-game system and Vision Interactive technology analyzes the direction, intensity and timing of a crowd's movement as a whole or section by section. Fans will be able to control games or answer poll questions displayed on the high-definition scoreboard by moving their arms. The interactive technology enables fans to either work in tandem or compete against each other.
Having seen it in person at the Verizon Center in D.C., here's an example of how it works: a poll question flashes on the scoreboard; fans are instructed to wave their arms to the left, center or right depending on their answer of choice; cameras record the movements and tabulate them into a popular vote.
In another game, the traditional "Zamboni race" was reinvented through CrowdWave. Fans in designated sections were instructed to cheer and wave their arms in order to "power" their Zamboni as it raced. The most boisterous section, measured by eight cameras installed inside the arena, was the winner.
Was it different? Absolutely? Was it entertaining for the fans? Yes, for the ones that bothered to participate.
Was it perfect? No, and more than a few fans indicated to us after the game that they felt it was uncomfortable and awkward.
But according to CrowdWave, they'll eventually come around, because this is just the beginning for a revolution in arena sports technology. Step one? Convincing the skeptics this stuff actually works.
Remember the old arcade video games "Space Ace" and "Dragon's Lair"? They featured a film-quality cartoon with characters that, allegedly, the player controlled with the joystick and buttons. But there was always a sense that the game was more automation that user-friendly experience.
That was also a gripe from the Capitals fans after CrowdWave debuted: How do we know this thing really works? That it isn't just the "noise-o-meter" 2.0.
"From the inception of the company and the product, we always knew that (a) there would be a level of disbelief and (b) that there would be questions about why we're doing this and what it adds to gameday," said Toma Fiezo-Gas, creative director for CrowdWave. "We try as hard as we can to show in these games that we're measuring something. I'll be honest with you: It's a bit baffling to me too. But my job is to create games that work within the confines of what we can measure.
"It's not that big of a leap from Xbox Connect. That's only in one living room; but if the technology is out there to measure one individual, then it's out there to measure more than one person."
Phil from Capitals Outsider captured this video from CrowdWave's debut in D.C.: