Written by Natasha Wren • Published 24th August 2020 • 3 minute read
From packed stadiums to empty stands, the way in which we consume sports and connect through it has been disrupted beyond scale. COVID-19 hit a sharp pause button on the ability to host thousands of fans in a single arena and with it an entire experience of fans collectively cheering on their teams has faded into a rose tinted tale of the pre-pandemic era.
While the crisis has had a devastating impact on sports, it has also offered an opportunity to demonstrate the power of digital technology to engage with audiences worldwide. Many sports team owners are teaming up with virtual and augmented reality designers to create ways for spectators to attend their favourite matches, go on real-time tours of stadiums and training facilities all without leaving the comfort of their own home. Meanwhile, there are several performance-focused brands that are transforming both team tactics and individual player analysis. There are a number of game changers on the frontlines of this scale of innovation and here we take the time to recognise their contribution.
Manchester-based startup, Rezzil, partners with elite footballers to showcase how VR training can analyse player performance to enhance cognitive abilities to raise their game. Transporting players to the pitch with teammates, Rezzil simulates the full stadium experience to keep players mentally fit and razor-sharp for when they return to the match.
Through the creation of thousands of ‘natural movement’ data points, Rezzil measures capabilities to benchmark a player’s average fitness scores and how to improve them. From balance and stability to pass awareness the virtual reality simulation outputs a clear guideline for comparison and progression. Rezzil has also proved invaluable to the recovery pathways for injured players as club doctors and physiotherapists can gain a complete picture of their ability to return to play.
Virtual reality specialists ImmersiveVR collaborated with Rioch, West Ham United’s official information technology partner to create a 360 degree video experience to immortalise the Club’s iconic Boleyn Grounds to mark its farewell. The 360 degree VR technology enabled fans to enjoy an interactive experience that follows the players through the dramatic lead up to kick-off. ImmersiveVR was founded to deliver an exceptional virtual reality experience to transform interactive learning in a way unseen before. While their work with West Ham United is demonstrative of how fans can engage with sport in an entirely new way, their technology has been dedicated to evolving how training and educational content is consumed to make it vastly more interactive.
Arsenal, Fox and Sky Sports are a snapshot of both the elite teams and major broadcasters that have uptaken Beyond Sports’ AI based visualization technology to create a new way of experiencing sports. Carving out their technology to sit at the intersection of passion for sports and the future of user experience, Beyond Sports has become a leader in providing audiences with a greater depth of player and match insights. Through player positional tracking data, audiences and match analysts gain an entirely new way to assess vital scenes in any match at any one moment. Beyond Sports offers audiences the chance to take full advantage of what the virtual world can offer.
The drive to unlock superior match winning decision-making is what led Incisiv to create CleanSheet, an interactive virtual reality in a controlled environment, to improve goalkeeper’s shot-stopping abilities. Labelling the process Action Intelligence (AQ), Incisiv delivers advanced performance insights to provide an in-depth analysis of goalkeeper’s training sessions to determine how they can analyse split-second decisions that lead to the misses and saves of each goal. Incivis’ innovative use of virtual reality customises the most challenging goal attempts to show goalkeepers how to prevent injury in those situations.
Virtually Live has fast become a leader in fan engagement solutions, both for broadcast services and customer facing applications. Using cutting edge digital experiences, Virtually Live provides fans worldwide the chance to engage in live events across multiple devices and platforms. Where Virtually Live stands out from its competitors is its core focus on social interaction. The trajectory of their technology will create a whole new era of sports viewing parties where friends and family can gather virtually no matter where they are to observe a game collectively in a way television cannot fully provide.
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