Innovation That Matters

The NBA is hoping the new initiative will help preserve the excitement of games with fans present | Photo source Microsoft

Pro basketball league to bring back fans, virtually

Sport & Fitness

NBA fans will appear on 17-foot video screens and will be able to interact with one another

Spotted: As the coronavirus pandemic spread, virtually all professional sports ground to a halt. Now, as teams try to find a way to start up again, many are considering playing games without fans, or are only letting a few into the stadium. But without fans, sports games just don’t have the same atmosphere. This is why the National Basketball Association (NBA) has decided to restart its season with virtual fans.

The NBA has announced plans to use Microsoft Teams to project more than 300 fans live courtside during games. The fans will appear on 17-foot video screens and will be able to interact with one another. The NBA hopes the experience will allow fans to feel like they are at a live game and give players a similar energy boost that they get from “live” support.

The initiative will use a new Microsoft Teams feature called “together mode”, which uses AI segmentation technology to digitally place participants in a shared background. The idea is to help users feel like they are all sitting in the same room. The NBA is also unveiling a host of other features to help make the fanless games more exciting. These include repositioning cameras to provide never-before-seen camera angles and using microphones to capture enhanced sounds such as trainer squeaks and ball bounces.  

Fans will also be able to digitally cheer for their team through the NBA app and on Twitter, with the virtual cheers reflected on in-venue video boards. According to NBA Head of Next Gen Telecast, Sara Zuckert, the NBA’s goal is to, “create an enjoyable and immersive experience where fans can engage with each other and maintain a sense of community as we restart the season under these unique and challenging circumstances.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued, we have seen a growing number of innovations aimed at making people feel less like they are alone. These have included creating a virtual classroom for remote learning and an interactive platform that creates virtual offices.

Written By: Lisa Magloff

Explore more: Sport & Fitness Innovations | COVID-19 Innovations



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