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Endless AR Possibilities: BT Sport's Match Day Experience Technical Partners Talk New Realities


Endless AR possibilities: BT Sport's Match Day Experience technical partners talk new realities By Heather McLean, Editor

Monday, November 23, 2020 - 12:41

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Here Match Day Experience on the BT Sport App is shown in Stadium Experience

BT Sport and mobile operator EE recently announced Match Day Experience, a set of new features for the BT Sport app.

Match Day Experience brings augmented reality (AR) elements and 360-degree video to live and non-live coverage of Premier League matches for EE 5G subscribers using the new iPhone 12.

SVG Europe caught up with Jamie Hindhaugh, chief operating officer at BT Sport, along with three of its technical partners behind some of the new features - Stats Perform, Second Spectrum and Visualise - to get more detail on how the features were created and where AR is going to take viewers in 2021.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Hindhaugh comments on how BT Sport has created the new functionality: What I'm really proud of is the whole of BT Sport is taking people to the heart of the game and being editorially relevant, not gimmicky. The strength of being in sports is the community we build; it's about strategic partners.

He goes on: I think it's the combination of the products [in Match Day Experience] and really identifying from an editorially relevant point of view what football fans want, or what they can't get in the current climate, that works here. But what we've also done is everything we've built is looking forward to the full 5G roll out and enabling fans to still engage with all of these editorially relevant products, no matter where they are. This is the start of, I think, an incredible journey for all of the teams combined to really transform the experience around watching live sport.

On some of the companies involved in Match Day Experience, Paul Hunt is European executive director and European lead for football at Second Spectrum. In conjunction with the BT Sport team, Second Spectrum provides the video streams augmented with stats and graphics in Manager Mode for the BT Sport app.

Ross Tanner, Stats Perform account lead for BT Sport, helped provide the data-rich services across Opta to create visualisations for Match Day Experience; it provides data that powers the formations and attacking areas in Match Day Live's AR features.

Meanwhile, Henry Stuart, CEO and co-founder of Visualise, an AR and virtual reality (VR) production agency, has taken the stats from Stats Perform and visualised them throughout the app, such as, a stadium that you can place in your living room with all this live data , according to Stewart. Visualise also created the app's Stadium Experience, which enables the user to walk through an AR doorway as a portal into immersive content.

Other partners for the app are Sceenic, which supports the Watch Together functionality, Tiledmedia which supports the 360 functionality, and last but not least, Deltatre that integrates the Tiledmedia service into the BT Sport App enhanced player.

BT Sport's new App functionality, Match Day Experience, here shown in Manger Mode

Endless possibilities for AR

As to how the combined technologies within Match Day Experience will help BT Sport's viewers during the pandemic by allowing them to engage with sport that they are unable to attend in person, Hindhaugh says: We're taking people to the game, we're giving them match day experiences they can't currently get, and we are enabling them to socially come together. For me it's about the experience.

It's about addressing the fact that in this current pandemic, a lot of us are on our own watching a game where usually we're either at the game or we're with mates watching the game in the pub or what have you, Hindhaugh goes on. So I think [the different aspects of Match Day Experience] complement each other tremendously.

Stuart agrees: The way we see it, this is just the foundation that allows us to build these first steps. You'll see more and more impressive graphics and animations coming onto TV, either tracked onto pitches or in studios.

Stuart notes that the possibilities are endless; through AR you can have, a life size recreation of a player who stands there and you can have your photo taken next them to in your living room . He adds: Once the assets can be placed there, the possibilities are actually limitless. I think that's what's so exciting. And also the fact that BT Sport already produces so much live 360 content, as well as the prerecorded stuff that we're currently using through the portal.

You'll soon be able to just be watching the TV [at home] then put an [AR] portal down and walk through to a live view, which is on the side of the pitch, you know, and then stand there and look around with your phone. It's just an incredible way of watching the sport.

Hunt says this is all pointing to a much more personalised experience: I think that [this is about] making it more of a personalised experience. So rather being fed what's been shown for the past 20 or 30 years on television, this is a new angle. It's bringing new features and new excitement to it.

He adds: We're all different. We all want something different. We all want to see things at a different cadence. So I think this gives us now the opportunity to start looking at rather than just watching the full 90 minutes [even though] football is engaging let's face it, it's been around for 400 years it's about delivering that next level, now. I think what we're seeing here now will become very much part of the standard of future broadcasting.

Hunt notes that the different functionalities of Match Day Experience also enable BT Sport to serve existing customers in new ways as well as attract and engage new or le
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