Drawing on advances in high-performance computing systems and artificial intelligence, innovative companies are making personalized and immersive experiences an important part of the game.
Every year, the kickoff of the NFL season heralds the coming of an ever-better fan experience, as teams and networks do new things to enhance the way spectators immerse themselves in the action on the field. Years ago, the rise of the instant replay changed the way viewers could see the game. They could suddenly take a second and third look at a play to try to see exactly what happened. Today, they can dive much deeper into the experience, as companies discover creative ways to use technology to provide a richer, more personalized immersive experience.
In the 2017 season, for example, Intel and the National Football League (NFL) began delivering more immersive replays to football fans with Intel® freeD™ technology, now called Intel® True View, in select NFL stadiums. Each stadium was equipped with ultra-high-definition cameras to capture the greatest plays from every angle and create enhanced 360-degree highlights and immersive player perspectives.
For games at Intel True View-enabled stadiums, fans are able to access and share the highlights via NFL.com, the NFL Mobile app, the NFL YouTube channel and across NFL team digital offerings, according to Intel. Fans can also experience the enhanced replays in-stadium for closer views of the action on the field.
The machinery behind Intel True View includes cutting-edge 5K cameras, extreme processing power and a proprietary data algorithm, according to Intel. As for that extreme processing power, each Intel True View system encompasses more than 50 servers capable of processing the massive amounts of volumetric data used to reconstruct key moments of the game in 3D. With Intel True View, the captured data is analyzed, reconstructed, compressed and encoded before it is stored. Voxels (pixels with volume) allow the technology to render replays in spectacular, multi-perspective 3D.
This isn’t only a story about American football. It’s a story that encompasses the wide world of sports — from racetracks and golf courses to arenas and ballparks. Let’s consider a few more examples of the way that HPC systems, artificial intelligence and complementary technology components are changing the rules of the game for viewers at home, fans at the event and the players themselves.
Revving up the racing experience
At the 2018 International Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Intel announced a three-year partnership with Ferrari North America that will bring the power of artificial intelligence to the Ferrari Challenge North America Series. Race broadcasts can now use Intel AI technologies, including the Intel® Xeon® Scalable platform and the neon™ Framework, to enhance the spectator experience — and illustrate the potential of AI to transform motorsports.
One example: An Intel demonstration at CES showed the ability of AI systems to recognize actions and automatically detect and identify objects by showing the identification of a car passing another car on the racetrack. Working in tandem with aerial footage captured via drone-mounted cameras, AI systems allow broadcasters to analyze races in real time and provide insights that deepen the experience for racing fans watching a Ferrari Challenge North America broadcast. Drivers and their teams also benefit from this AI technology that brings together many sources of data to create new perspectives on the racing experience e. Watch the video.
Driving golf in new directions
Some technology-enabled immersive entertainment experiences can be entirely hands-on. That’s the case with Topgolf, which puts a rich mix of technologies to work to deliver an all-new golfing experience. Golf balls embedded with RFID chips. Fairways sprinkled with sensors. Powerful servers on the backend. It’s all part of the Topgolf game.
The Topgolf experience, powered by Dell EMC servers, is a one-of-a-kind experiential concept that is entertaining millions and introducing new players to the joys of golf. Players at Topgolf venues enjoy point-scoring golf games with balls that instantly score themselves. They also get an immediate view of the accuracy and distance of their shots on TV screens in their climate-controlled hitting bays. Watch the video.
“Call it a driving-range mentality that meets technology, Topgolf is pure entertainment — drinks, dinner, social interaction — with golf as a backdrop,” notes a PGA TOUR.com writer. “You hit out of your own bays toward targets with the speed, trajectory and landing tracked by Dell chips inside the balls. The data is stored in a cloud to enable for games and scoring.”
Putting viewers in front-row seats
At the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, Intel True VR gave viewers around the world front-row seats in an interactive, virtual reality environment. Intel, together with the
Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS), captured 30 Olympic events, with both live and video-on-demand content available. This marked the first-ever live virtual reality broadcast of the Olympic Winter Games, according to Intel.
At each of the events, Intel® True VR technology used multiple camera pods to create interactive 360-degree virtual reality environments. Viewers with VR headsets could customize their experience by switching between multiple vantage points, hear natural sound captured at each camera location to provide a truly immersive experience, and enjoy real-time stats, leaderboards and post-event results.
A new era is upon us
Just name your sport. Chances are innovators are working to bring you more personalized and immersive experiences. But let’s step back and look at the bigger picture. This is about more than the relationship between fans and the sporting events they love. It’s really about the relationship between people and machines.
Michael Dell, Dell Technologies chairman and CEO, may have captured this point best in a quote appearing in an article that summarized the company’s predictions for 2018.
“In the future, it won’t be a question of people or machines, the magic is people and machines,” he observed. “We’re entering the next era of human-machine partnership, a more integrated, personal relationship with technology that has the power to amplify exponentially the creativity, inspiration, intelligence and curiosity of the human spirit.”
That’s absolutely the case when you enhance the fan experience with things like artificial intelligence and virtual reality driven by HPC systems. The result is a great human-machine partnership — and a better experience for all involved.
 Intel news release, “Intel and NFL Kickoff freeD Technology in 11 Stadiums to Create Immersive Highlights for 2017 Season,” Sept. 7, 2017
 Intel news release, “2018 CES: Intel, in Collaboration with Ferrari North America, Accelerates Race Car Drivers and Fans to Next-Level Experiences Powered by Artificial Intelligence,” Jan. 8, 2018.
 Intel fact sheet, “Intel True VR Technology Brings Fans to the Stands at Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018,” Jan. 8, 2018.
 NBC news release, “NBC Olympics to Provide Live Virtual Reality Coverage of the Winter Olympics Powered by Intel True VR,” Jan. 8, 2018.
 Dell Technologies, “Dell Technologies 2018 Predictions – Entering the Next Era of Human Machine Partnerships,” Dec. 11, 2017.