This is a rough year for everyone, and professional sports are no expiation. In fact, they’ve might experience the biggest hit from this pandemic since there are regulations and restrictions for gathering people.
So, the question is, what is a sport without an audience? It’s a bittersweet feeling if you are one of the greatest cornerbacks of all time and there is nobody in the stands to witness the highlights of your career.
Well, fortunately, thanks to technology, we can still watch our favourite MLB, NBA and NFL teams from our homes, but what will it take for them to adapt to such an environment?
Most of the professional sports were paused since the COVID-19 pandemic started, but as months fly by, it seems like this pandemic is going to last for quite a bit of time. This forced big organizations like the NBA, NFL, and etc., to find a way to continue playing even at times like these.
Some sports leagues returned to play, following new regulations and alternatives to keep players safe. Some athletes are trying out new ring-finger health trackers or redesigned helmets with the additional mask just to continue with the season.
After all, it is the only way for professional teams to survive. In the first few months of this year, experts predict that teams experienced huge losses over $5 billion and climbing.
So, their only option was to continue playing by finding out a way around the pandemic.
The National Football League introduced a new face shield and mask combination designed by sunglasses manufacturer Oakley that keeps the players safe on the field. They will be made with the anti-ballistic and anti-fog lenses that we will see prototypes very soon.
The NBA league is also using the new ring-shaped tracker to monitor their vital signs. This data scans the athlete’s body at all times and analyzes data to “risk score.” This helps them find out potential Covid-19 cases before they spread throughout the players.
NBA officials claim that they won’t have access to player’s actual data. They will only be informed if the player is a potential risk to other people.
Apart from that, pro soccer and basketball players must follow a strict social distancing before and during upcoming tournaments.
Since we still don’t know how the situation will progress, pro sports leagues are searching for ways to reunite teams with their fans. They think about introducing new facial recognition technology that will reduce lines before matches and recognize people with potential covid-19 symptoms.
For now, the NBA is using similar facial-recognition software to add a virtual audience to each match. For this, they’ve selected a dozen people recording themselves on a green-screen, which later they are added as a virtual audience. The effect is better than seeing an empty arena, but still far from perfect.
Soccer is using similar AR technology with AI that helps them add a virtual audience to the seats in the arena. To improve the overall experience, they’ve also added an audience noise in the background that can predict when a team can potentially score a goal and make more noise.
It is similar to the audience we see in FIFA games, but still not perfect. The first problem is that the virtual audience is only visible from a few cameras. It is hard to add a virtual audience from a camera recording a close up from the athlete.
With that in mind, we’ve seen some progress in professional sports when it comes to adapting to this COVID-19 crisis, but we are still going in an unknown direction. One of the ways to make all of this a thing of the past is introducing a new vaccine that will make players and people immune to the virus.
Until then, we have to adapt to today’s scenario and continue to look for a way to make sports more enjoyable.