MLSE, Amazon bringing AR, VR to sports viewing

A reporter on the Scotiabank Arena's practice court tests out the virtual reality feature as part of the Immersive Basketball Experience launched by MLSE and AWS's SpaceX initiative.  It allows the viewer to see life-size 3D simulations of sports games.  (Credit: MLSE)

A reporter tries out the virtual reality feature as part of the Immersive Basketball Experience produced by MLSE Ditigal Labs and Amazon Web Services’ SportsX program. It allows the viewer to see life-size 3D simulations of sports games. (Credit: MLSE)

If you simply walked into Scotiabank Arena’s practice gym on a Monday evening; Reporters developers, You’ll find a room full of representatives from Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE).

What you haven’t seen yet is a 3D look representing players from the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks, recreating their last NBA matchups. That is until you put on an augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) headset.

with headphones You will be able to immerse yourself directly into the action. Players come to life in front of you, giving you the chance to follow them from baseline to baseline, or simply sit on the court — whatever you feel gives you the best view of defensive breakdowns and offensive explosions.

“It’s a glimpse into the future,” said Humza Teherany, MLSE’s chief technology and digital officer.

MLSE Digital Labs and AWS have partnered to launch SportsX, a new research and development program. His first initiative was introducing AR and VR to change the way we consume professional sports. Players and coaches can relive moments to help with their training, which helps improve the fan experience and team performance.

As part of the launch on January 24, MLSE and AWS demonstrated different ways AR and VR headsets can be used to display the data they collect. This allows wearers to immerse themselves directly in the action or even get real-time stats as part of their perspective while watching a game — such as during Monday night’s matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders. .

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“Frankly, this has never been done anywhere else in the world,” Teherany said.

“The big thing about this program is building the future of sports from Toronto and leveraging such great things within MLSE. I hope it will be a role model for the rest of the sports world.”

How does the technology work?

The “Immersive Basketball Experience” uses a combination of light-tracked gestural data — such as the position of each joint and limb — with 3D models and a video game development engine. As the players are rendered in 3D around you, the result is an age-appropriate way to bring the game back to life.

For the NBA experience; MLSE and AWS are using in-game cameras located in all areas to collect the necessary data. As we can expect this experience to be available in all sports, the same experience can be applied to NHL games while there are advances in other professional sports such as Formula 1 to obtain biomechanical data.

For the NHL, The league uses “NHL Edge” so the experience can be more realistic. The NHL uses infrared technology embedded in pucks and players’ jerseys to collect data — in this case — information sent to — an AWS station at Scotiabank Arena. This technology allows tracking of each element of the game’s movement for the “Extended Reality Stats Overlay” feature on an AR or VR headset.

While watching an NHL game, Spectators own the puck; You can view an overlay that shows stats for the team, such as speed and distance traveled. Using the laser feature as part of the remote that comes with the headset, viewers can even select individual players, such as Auston Matthews, to focus on to get specific stats.

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“You can enjoy the game while seeing analytics and data in one place in real time,” Teherany said, noting that it can be used by a hockey fan or someone studying the game.

A reporter wears a modern suit.

A reporter wears a “mixed reality” headset while using the NHL Extended Reality Stats Overlay to view real-time stats about the game on Jan. 23 when the New York Islanders play the Toronto Maple Leafs. (MLSE)

Future Uses: Arenas for Everyday Life

Currently, the two-thousand-dollar cost and size of the headphones remain a challenge for mass adoption. Teherany says that when innovations like Apple’s augmented reality glasses come out, it will change the market and we can expect these features to be available in the size of your everyday glasses.

Eric Gales, country manager for AWS Canada, says the market has changed dramatically in recent years, saying that delivering an AR or VR experience requires a lot of gear. now, Because of all the data they collect on the cloud; They are ready to personify this experience when there is an option that can be used to make it mainstream.

“Extended Reality Stats Overlay” is an experience that MLSE wants to give fans inside the arena. It will help maximize the viewing experience, especially for those sitting high up in the crowd. A similar stat experience without headphones was also displayed on a table-sized panel at Scotiabank Arena—which could fit inside his luxury suits.

Spectators inside the Scotiabank Arena can watch their movements,  puck possession;  The panel can be used to track players in real-time, such as speed and distance traveled.  (Credit: MLSE)

Spectators inside the Scotiabank Arena can watch their movements, puck possession; The panel can be used to track players in real-time, such as speed and distance traveled. (Credit: MLSE)

Outside the ring, I’m having trouble figuring out how to license these games for AR and VR use — since the broadcast rights are owned by Rogers and Bell.

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For an immersive basketball experience for professional NBA games; Members of MLSE and AWS want to expand its capabilities into people’s homes for everyday use. A realistic timeline is 5-10 years due to the aforementioned cost and size issues of headsets.

For the age version of the players, said Christian Magsisi, MLSE’s vice president of venue and digital technology. It explains that you need to have a bigger and more flexible space. for example, If you want to be next to a life-sized Kawhi Leonard who won his famous 2019 game, You will need a large space, such as a gym or field.

But with AR and VR capabilities, users can lay out the experience on a smaller screen like a tabletop, helping them see the action unfold in front of them.

Creating competitive advantage.

One of the benefits of the VR and AR experience is for MLSE’s professional sports organizations. Magsisi said it allows players and coaches to recreate important moments from their games and learn from them.

“It gives us a competitive advantage,” Magsisi said, adding that members of the Raptors and Leafs have already tried the technology.

Instead of needing 10 real-life players to recreate a specific play on an NBA court; You can use AR or VR to bring that moment to life. Players and coaches will be able to watch or re-watch games with action-detecting headset technology, giving them the chance to pinpoint exactly how their team is playing.

Gales notes that this could apply to increasing understanding of injuries and how to avoid them to improve player safety. This type of data and innovative research has been the focus of the NFL since 2019 in partnership with AWS.

Getting people involved

Along with enhancing viewing experiences and helping teams gain a competitive edge, SportsX is based on the concept of engaging communities. We want to help them lead audiences to future ideas through presentations and try AR and VR experiences.

“We’ve been watching sports the same way for a long time. It’s a big change to give people virtual reality goggles. So people need to ease into it. So it’s going to be available soon, but I think it’s going to take a while. It’s time for people to really embrace it.”

Interested parties can sign up immediately at to test the technology for themselves.

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