Fox Sports is filling stadiums with virtual baseball fans
The uncanny valley is a theory in aesthetics that says we can relate to, and even like simulated humans — but only to the point they get almost too lifelike, then we start to dislike them. To this end Fox Sports has presented us with the depths of that valley.
In order to make the return of baseball feel more “alive” on TV, Fox is adding full stadiums of virtual baseball fans that cheer and boo along with the action. It’s a means to make everything feel more normal, even during the wholly surreal pandemic era. Fox are by no means the first organization to try this. Cardboard cutouts have been used in Korea since baseball resumed, one soccer team used sex dolls and got fined for it. It’s a whole thing.
But Fox is taking that to the next level with the virtual fans. On the one hand this is super neat, and shows how far we’ve come technologically. It’s also an excellent way to fill Safeco Field for the first time — but I digress. That said, why in the world did they need to program the fans to do the wave?
If 2020 gave us nothing else it was the chance to kill the wave for good. An absence of live sports, paired with the thankfully waning popularity of choreographed fan participation, really gave us the opportunity to bury the wave forever. It had it’s place, now it’s time to move on. We don’t need the wave to return in any form, let alone virtual form.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see if this ends up enhancing the experience, or being as creepy as I think it will.