The pandemic has affected everything that includes sports but now we are starting to see some league start back up and the NBA is next on the docket and certainly, that experience is going to be different for everybody involved but it’s also kind of exciting to see how the technology can change that and advance it. With the NBA set to officially resume on July 30th, Microsoft is teaming up with the NBA on a unique way to bring fans closer to their players. Microsoft teams plan to use AI to make together virtually feel more like being together in person. NBA fans who have been following along with the season know that players are currently at Walt Disney World in Orlando on the NBA bubble quarantine which means fans won’t be able to cheer their favorite players in person and players won’t get to feed off the energy from their fans, but Microsoft has a workaround. Microsoft will bring together mode in teams to bring people together into a shared background like in the arena. The technology will allow participants including players to react and register other reactions in real-time. Starting this Thursday during the first official return to play, the NBA will outfit each game court with 17 feet tall LED screens that wrap three sides of the arena. These virtual stands will be populated with more than 300 fans that will join the game using together mode in Teams. There’s no word on how fans will be chosen to join these team meetings and watch the games but it seems like a good alternative to being there in person. Obviously, it’s not going to be the same but it seems like the best next thing.
One of the things about the NBA games is that fans, that home crowd, that atmosphere that the games get whether you are watching it online or whether you are there in person which is a big factor but naturally we can’t have it this year and we know that NBA is doing some unique things to help change that up and keep that going. So, the NBA is focusing on bringing the fans closer to the game as much as possible given the unique circumstances that they are in. They are starting with camera angles and many already know that they are getting closer to the game as much as they can by working with their great partners at TNT and SPN and as well as regional networks. They are also allowing fans to cheer virtually through twitter, the website, and thought the official NBA app. They’ll be virtual cheering challenges and we will get to see the results reflected in the arena. The players will see them as well as a way to bring energy back to the venue and let the players know that the fans at home are cheering. The NBA teams are excited that through teaming up with Microsoft, they are able to bring fans into the arena digitally. About 300 fans per game will be on fan boards, screens that are supporting surrounding the court. Those fans will be seen and heard live in the venue. Fans can see them, players can see them- so they are working really hard to bring back the energy in a genuine way that they could.
The NBA teams are finding fans to participate through giveaways, through working with community groups, and other things like that and each team will be doing this separately on their own with their own fans. They are grateful to be able to give teams that ability as well. The Michelob ultra courtside experience is making many happy about this partnership as Michelob ultra will be giving away some tickets at their website. One of the great things about Michelob ultra courtside is that they are going to be hearing those 300 fans; they will be heard in the venue and the telecast as well. It will sound a little bit different than an NBA arena; we will still be able to hear those real cheers going on. This will be a great opportunity for payers on the court and for the fans are home because this will be audible in their broadcasts on all of the networks on league pass and so this will be a great opportunity to hear the energy. The team is planning to mix the voices and no individual voice will be heard screaming out one thing. They are also planning to have a number of moderators for every game. Because there are no fans and this is almost a sound stage that they are setting up there so they can be able to move cameras closer to the game than they ever have before. The new robotic camera is installed to ensure the safety and good health of players as this is the sore most focus. Hence camera angles have been replaced by robotic technology. There are 31 cameras on every court including a rail cam that will run up and down the court parallel to the players so that it captures the real feel of the game. There are even new under the basket robotics.
The fans are having the opportunity to really cheer is very exciting because that’s a very cool experience. Just the idea of it, its rethinking everything right now and it’s the most welcoming decision. One of the things about NBA games, in particular, is the closer you are to the court it’s just a different game down there. Giving somebody that kind of an angel and that kind of viewpoint are actually a very exciting thing. With the technology and looking at how we don’t know what future holds when comes to any of this stuff but we only hope that someday things will get back to normal games and broadcasts. But this kind of technology is something that they are testing to see how things will work out and if they can implement in the post- COVID world. NBA is always focused on innovating the games and this is a very different and unique opportunity to test things out. They have learned some through pre-testing and had brought them to Orlando. Depending on what the fans like, in the future, they might be taking these learning to another level. None of us can predict what the future can hold but the NBA is using this as a learning opportunity. They look forward to this being a launch pad for what their future might look like. This is an interesting way to utilize technology and the world is excited to see how it works out.