Sports Technology

Playing During the Pandemic: A Tech Playbook

Overview As professional sports return amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, leagues have had to find ways to ensure players’ safety while bringing sports back to the fans. Tech may just be the MVP they are looking for.

When the pandemic struck, professional sports seasons in the U.S. came to a halt. As athletes make their return to empty stadiums, and in most leagues a bubble location, we begin to see how the leagues have adapted. Here is some of the tech you will find in the starting lineup.

Oura Partners with the NBA

The NBA resumed play in bubble with a modified schedule. Players and support staff self-isolate on arrival and testing protocols are in place to ensure the bubble remains free of COVID-19. The league has also partnered with CES 2016 Best of Innovation Award honoree Oura to provide players with another way to detect early signs of illness.

The Oura Ring, which is optional for players to wear, tracks activity, sleep levels, heart rate, body temperature and more. Those who opt to wear the device will receive a risk score each morning that will inform the league and player’s association if there are any signs of illness or physical stress.

Creating the Virtual Fan Experience

After months without live sports, fans were eager to see sports return to their screens, but one question remained: how would leagues engage fans from afar? From pumping in noise to virtual crowds, leagues are attempting to recreate the fan experience for those watching at home.

The NWSL was the first team sport to return in the U.S. this summer and recreated the feeling of attending home games through Google Meet. By hosting a virtual watch party for each team, fans were able to enjoy watching their favorite team in a community setting. When the NBA returned a few weeks later, they took this concept to a new level by seating the fans in stands via Microsoft Teams Together Mode. Viewers at home can see the virtual fan base cheering along throughout the games.

Bringing Back the Fans

Even though fans may not be allowed back just yet, the preparation for in-person spectators has already begun. One major player in the discussion is facial recognition.

TrueFace founder and CES 2019 panelist Shaun Moore believes the technology could be used throughout the fan experience, from ticket taking to concession stands. Facial recognition could recognize ticket holders and allow for entry without the queue and ticket handoff. As far as concession stands go, ticket holders could set up an account that would charge their credit card, eliminating the need to pass a card or cash back and forth.

Athletes and fans alike are leveraging the power of technology to adapt to a new era of sports, keeping health and safety a priority while satisfying our need for the excitement of live sports.

Learn more about how esports and gaming filled the live sports void.


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