How Tech is Transforming the Sports Fan's Perspective

Intel's 3D-modeling system shows how digital technology could transform the spectator experience beyond recognition.

The world of professional sport is no stranger to cutting-edge digital technology. A whole range of tech has recently emerged, which has aimed to enhance both athletic performance and the spectator experience. So far though, it hasn’t gone much beyond mere enhancement―which is to say that tech hasn’t yet truly disrupted the world of sport.

Looking at some of the technologies being introduced as the NFL season draws to its traditionally high-profile close, it seems like that might be about to change. Don’t worry, Tom Brady isn’t about to be replaced by a 3D-printed robot―it’s the fan experience that seems fit to be transformed beyond recognition.

Disrupting Your View of the Big Game

FOX is partnering with Intel to add a host of enhanced features to the broadcast of this weekend’s big game, including a feature called “Be the Player”, which uses 360 Replay technology to model the real world so that virtual views from any location can be generated. This means that fans can see what players see but any viewpoint is possible.

Couple this with recent developments in augmented and virtual reality and it’s easy to see how 3D-modelling tech could utterly transform the fan perspective―to the point that it could actually revolutionize our notions of what it means to be “spectator.” You might think there’s nothing better than being at the game in person, but maybe that won’t always be the case.

Transforming Fair Play

Not everyone will be comfortable with the idea of fans experiencing the physical spectacle of human athleticism in such a virtual fashion. But there are some benefits that are harder to argue with. Specifically, the technology could be used to provide more accurate views of play, allowing referees to make more informed decisions.

Aside from reducing controversies, this could lead to the collection of data with the potential to generate insights that will make sports not only fairer but also safer―which should certainly be a boon for the NFL, football teams and the players themselves, of course. Doubtless there will still be Luddites who object but the benefits seem clear.

Who are the Digital Champions?

Naturally, all this requires a significant investment in technical infrastructure, particularly as creating the 3D models means processing vast amounts of data. And at this stage, models take several minutes to build―so, instant replays aren’t available, let alone the kind of near-real-time views that would truly revolutionize the spectator experience.

Nevertheless, this example shows the magical possibilities open to pro sports organizations and broadcasters with the vision and technical acumen to be first-to-market with innovations of this kind. Clearly, the race is on to see who can create the killer app that truly takes the sporting life into a new era.

Sam Macklin
By Sam Macklin | February 01, 2017