NFL and Intel bring football fans immersive experience of highlights and commentary from a handful of 2017 games.
There’s nothing like the sights and sounds of an NFL game, but a revolution in post-game content is pulling football fans closer than ever to football’s biggest plays. Cutting-edge virtual reality (VR) technology puts fans on the field, behind the end zone or on the sidelines to view the best plays from a variety of perspectives.
The NFL teamed up with Intel to create new VR experiences for five select games during the 2017 season. Instead of just watching the highlights, viewers get to be right there with the host and analyst, taking part in the post-game analysis. VR stats and graphics help add to the post-game experience.
“We are bringing fans to the stadiums in virtual reality, transporting them to experience the content in a way that’s more immersive than watching it on a 2D screen,” said David Aufhauser, managing director of strategy and product for Intel Sports Group (ISG).
By downloading the free Intel True VR app, viewers can get an up-close view on the most spectacular plays, alongside commentary by NFL personalities and game analysts. Through the head-mounted display (HMD), fans can switch camera views, so they can watch the play from a variety of angles.
“True VR enables fans to experience the story of the game,” said Aufhauser. “You can experience it from different angles and locations – from the sidelines to the end zones. In VR, fans feel like they’re actually part of the action,” explained Aufhauser.
For games in stadiums equipped with freeD technology, fans can also get 360-degree highlights, to see plays from unique perspectives around the field.
How it Works
To capture the game highlights in VR, camera “pods” are set up in various locations around stadiums. Each pod is equipped with six pairs of lenses (or 12 cameras) that capture a stereoscopic view – capturing 180 degrees of action, but also depth, so viewers feel like they’re at the event.
“It’s a full 3D stereoscopic experience with graphics and data that immerses fans,” said Aufhauser. “They get to experience the intensity and amazement of the game up close and from different angles.”
How Does True VR Work?
True VR was developed when Dr. Sankar (Jay) Jayaram, chief technology officer at Intel Sports and a diehard Seattle Seahawks fan, wondered: What if you could use VR to put people in the stadium to watch the game? What if you could bring a live VR experience to spectators anywhere in the world?
That was in 2007 when the headsets of today didn’t even exist.
Jayaram had long been thinking about VR. He and his wife Dr. Uma Jayaram ran the Virtual Reality and Computer Integrated Manufacturing Lab at Washington State University, where they were both professors.
“People told us live VR could never be done,” Jayaram said. “People couldn’t imagine how we could process all the data in real time.”
For its first attempt, the team set up a huge rack of computers and cameras at an NBA game in 2010.
“It took us a month and a half to process the data to produce a five-minute playback,” said Jayaram.
“In a typical game we might be capturing 40 to 50 gigabytes of data per second,” he said. “That’s enough to fill up your cell phone’s memory in 8 seconds.”
“It took a lot of hard work from our engineers and a lot of thinking through the process and figuring out how we can maximize the use of computing and graphics and CPU, and GPU, and algorithms,” he said.
NFL 2017 Highlights in VR
Intel’s partnership with the NFL is making post-game VR video-on-demand content available for free after five games in the 2017 season. This example of the digitization of sports is a way to make watching games more immersive and intimate.
“Everyone has a personalized experience,” Aufhauser said. “You get to see what you want to see, not just what the camera dictates.”
Post-game VR highlights packages are available for the following games: Texans at Bengals (Sept. 14), Rams at 49ers (Sept. 21), Bills at Jets (Nov. 2), Chargers at Chiefs (Dec. 16) and Colts at Ravens (Dec. 23).
Anyone who downloads the True VR app also gets access to custom VR experiences in a variety of other sports and events. Click here to learn more.
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