Player positional tracking may sound complicated, but it does exactly what it says: tracks players in real-time based on their position on the pitch or court.
“All of the players on elite sports [teams], especially these sports, are being tracked,” explains Konstantin Dieterle, Head of Business Development and Marketing at Beyond Sports. “Either via optical cameras that have the ability to track players on the pitch and their position - so X and Y coordinates on a pitch - or via computer vision.” These are normal cameras that have a greater ability to capture the players with the pitch acting as a green screen - anything on the green screen is trackable.
The topic has been discussed more recently, Dieterle points out, because of FIFA’s announcement of semi-automated offsite calls.
There are a number of companies in the player positional tracking realm, and the tracking allows them to build a “giant library of body movements” captured from various sports, he explains. Based on this data, we can understand where players are on the pitch, where the ball is, speed of movement, where every teammate is positioned, and thanks to AI, we can recognize what will most likely be a player’s next movement.
Once the data is available, there are various ways in which it can be used, many of them revolving around player development. Beyond Sports, however, is using this data to enhance fan experiences by visualising the information.
Data visualisation is often used by broadcasters during studio shows, with pundits such as Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher wearing VR headsets to explain play form or defensive decisions.
Beyond Sports wanted to use data visualisation in more engaging ways, which are more entertaining for younger audiences - those who may not want to watch a standard game, let alone pre- or post-game shows with pundits from older generations.
This meant presenting the game in new ways.
Imagine watching a football match, but instead of Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe running up the pitch for PSG at Parc des Princes, the venue is made of Legos and it is caricature versions of the players kicking the ball, or a Ninja Turtle wearing a Messi jersey.
“It is a custom approach when it comes to these broadcaster experiences,” says Dieterle. Beyond Sports is able to provide broadcasters and creators with the ‘toolbox’ they need to create these experiences.
For the past two years, they worked with American kids network Nickelodeon and the NFL to create experiences for Wild Card games. In the first such game, they produced half-time highlights in the form of their ‘blockies’ and were winners of an Emmy Award for Outstanding Live Graphic Design along with Nickelodeon. In 2022, Beyond Sports’ highlights came in the form of the Ninja Turtles mentioned earlier, and they are once again nominated for an award.
The speed at which data travels allows Beyond Sports to broadcast entire games in real-time, and not just produce half-time highlights. In fact, at times they build a delay, so as not to show their visualisation ahead of actual broadcast footage.
Aside from catering to broadcasters on the B2B side, Beyond Sports also created an app that brings the data and ‘toolbox’ directly to fans.
App users can create an account and edit their own version of highlights of past matches. Fans can use data from Beyond Sports partners, select from one of the templates - such as playing on Mars - and create new versions of goals scored or any other moment from full games.
Many sports property and rights owners are now exploring the Metaverse, whether on the Sandbox, Decentraland or another ecosystem. Others are looking at non-blockchain builder platforms such as Roblox. That’s where there are “some really interesting thoughts,” says Dieterle.
“Do you actually want to recreate a whole live game environment in a Roblox, for example? Do you want to build a stadium? Because you can. Do you want to build a ticketing system? Because you can, and just have people sit on the seats for them to watch the experience.
"Maybe, but probably not so much.”
Here, too, technologies such as Beyond Sports can provide the building blocks for experiences beyond simply sitting in a virtual stadium. You can visualise speed, routes, and probabilities with engaging and creative effects during live games.
The Brooklyn Nets are already doing so by offering their fans video game-like highlights from the ‘Netaverse’ with different camera angles for new viewing experiences.
While data visualisation and broadcasting experiences have been a huge part of sport content consumption over the past decades, there is still a lot of room to grow. Companies such as Beyond Sports can enable “first person” angles, where viewers can watch plays from the eyes of the visualised players.
Exploring these cases brings both new monetisation opportunities for sports rights holders, via advanced sponsorships, and brings sport content to new, younger and more gaming oriented audiences.
Want to learn more about how technologies are engaging sports fans of the future? Join Infront Lab on June 7th for "Futuristic Fandom: Keeping Up With Next Gen Fans" or watch ON-DEMAND.