Football and Extended Reality

The new stadium experience

From smartphone apps with real-time data to AR glasses: augmented reality is changing the way football matches are consumed. Both for stadium visitors and for fans who follow their favourite club from home.

Visit the top-match at the stadium or watch it from your sofa at home? Whatever the football fan decides in five, ten or 20 years – currently, she or he would certainly prefer the first option – both options will change fundamentally in the coming years. Extended reality makes it possible. Whether it’s receiving real-time data on your smartphone in the stadium with special apps or following the action in your living room with special glasses in a virtual way as if you were sitting on the sidelines – the revolution of the football experience has long since begun.

On the occasion of last summer’s Supercup between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Munich, the German Football League (DFL) conducted a test of what the viewing experience of live broadcasts could look like in the future for those who want to enjoy a big match from the comfort of their own home. Using so-called smart glasses, a group of test persons watched the Supercup as an augmented reality projection.

The game could be followed on a virtual TV screen in the glasses where real-time statistics, match graphics and a miniature pitch with all the players’ positions on the pitch were also displayed. Additional on-demand content with live statistics on all players and the possibility to watch replays of individual scenes was available.

Pilot project in Wolfsburg, virtual cheering with the DFB kickers

Back in 2019, the DFL and Vodafone launched a pilot project in the stadium of VfL Wolfsburg, which involved a new fan experience with the help of augmented reality. After launching the corresponding app, the smartphone is briefly held for calibration in such a way that at least two pitch boundary lines are visible in the display so that it can determine its own position.

You can then tap on one of the players in the live image on your smartphone, for example, to track their speed during the game. To determine this data, the video signals from the 16 cameras set up in the stadium are analysed. The basis for the information flow are match occurrences and position points that the DFL collects during a Bundesliga match. On average, these are around 1600 events and 3.6 million position points.

The German Football Association has also made use of augmented reality technology in cooperation with Telekom. On the occasion of EURO 2020, an app was developed with which fans of the national team could cheer with the virtual DFB players or join the corresponding player avatars in the picture for a photo.

New possibilities also in training design?

Extended reality – and augmented reality in particular – will also offer the football world new opportunities in training design. In London, for example, an immersive training centre that combines sport with augmented reality opened in September 2021. On digital walls, visitors can train skills such as shooting power or accuracy. This will certainly not replace “classic” team training (yet), but it could serve as a possible supplement in the professional sector in the future.

In summary, it can be said: Whether live and physically present in the stadium or as a spectator in one’s own four walls, who is very close to the action in a virtual way – augmented reality provides football with a variety of options and will change the experience for the fan in the long term. In the end, however, it is up to the consumer to decide which football experience is right for him or her.

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