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The NBA's new AR app lets you step into a portal to the Finals

It's not quite courtside, but it's free (it's also now on Android).

nba-ar-portals-360

Five portal experiences will be on tap at a time through the Finals.

NBA

You can't teleport to a pro basketball game -- yet -- but the NBA is doing the next best thing: Using an augmented reality app to bring you courtside at the NBA Finals.

A new update to the NBA's AR app adds a way to create doorways where you can step into 360-degree snippets of the NBA experience. Consider it an AR version of a pregame show: player introductions, the pregame tunnel, warm-ups and the like.

Why? Well, why not? The NBA launched its first AR app on iOS last year with a basketball-shooting minigame. The new Portals experience will be available with Wednesday's update to that app, which is also coming to ARCore-ready Android phones for the first time.

A little magic basketball doorway

The app starts by scanning the ground and laying down a spot where the "portal" appears: a doorway where the 360-degree video lies. Stepping forward and through turns the app screen into a full 360-degree video. Turn around, and the portal still remains, but showing the world you came from.

The app includes pregame and warmup moments from the Conference Finals at launch, but moments from the NBA Finals, shot on 360-degree cameras, will be curated and added over the series.

The portal effect is more of a clever trick using AR, after all, 360-degree video apps aplenty already exist. But this can be considered an experiment, too, for where AR in sports could go next.

Baby steps to more AR next season?

This Finals app is an "initial test" for where things could go next, according to Michael Allen, senior vice president of digital products and emerging technology at the NBA. "Over time it will fold into in-game experiences. We'll test this summer to see how it works for live content."

The AR experiences, for now, aren't in-game highlights. And they're not social. Instead, the app is single-user only. But Allen admits that the clear appeal of phone AR over headset VR is how many people can use it. "The scale is so readily available to a large number of fans."

Allen says that the NBA's previous basketball-shooting AR experiment showed "there's big appetite for these types of experiences." The goal of this newest AR app update is experimental, but over time the league "aims to provide as much access as possible."

The NBA is one of the early partners with Magic Leap, although where augmented sports tech is heading in the future remains a mystery. The NBA's continuing to explore VR and AR simultaneously. Maybe they'll merge in ways that Magic Leap suggests, or maybe not.

In the meantime, this app will show regularly updated pregame and postgame videos through the Finals, and maybe even into next season, too.

ReadNBA Finals 2018: Start time, how to watch and more

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