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Microsoft imagines future NFL games played out on your coffee table, via HoloLens

Mark Hachman | Feb. 4, 2016
From an improved sideline Surface experience to an audacious vision for HoloLens, Microsoft is digging deep into its role as an NFL technology partner.

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Mark Hachman New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (right) is was flanked by San Francisco 49ers legend Joe Montana at Microsoft's NFL technology panel.

Brees said that on one occasion using the Surface, he noticed how a receiver ran behind a defender on a pass play. So he asked the receiver to run in front of the defender the next time they ran the play, and he scored.

Currently, teams using the Surface Pro 3s can see how drives play out just as soon as players return to the sideline—but they’re just still images, taken at half-second intervals. In part, that’s because the NFL’s competition committee wants to make video access fairly available to all, said Brian Rolapp, executive vice president of media for the NFL. The league has tested the use of video, however, and Rolapp says “we don’t think that there’s a technological barrier to its adoption."

Oh, and Surfacegate? As Microsoft said before, it was a "network issue."

Imagine Bowl allows fans to dream big

Amid all the pre-Super Bowl hype, Microsoft sponsored ImagineBowl, a challenge of sorts that asked fans to envision how an app or technology could be used to improve the viewing experience. By Friday, Microsoft will have whittled three finalists down to one winner.

The three finalists include PlayerMetrics, an extension of the RFID sensor program that would give coaches and fans further insight into how a player is performing, including data on hydration, core body temperature, and recovery from injuries or extensive workouts.

Stadium View, the second proposal, would provide fans in the stadium with the same augmented-reality experience as those at home. Sitting in your stadium seat, you'd see projections of the first-down line, field-goal distance, and other virtual field markers on your phone or HoloLens—along with info on which bathroom has the shortest line.

The third proposal, Player View, would embed pinhole cameras into players’ helmets, giving fans a first-person view of how action plays out.

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Microsoft A virtual Russell Wilson bursts through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man.

HoloLens provides the sizzle

It’s the HoloLens, however, that could provide the most dramatic change to the NFL viewing experience. Microsoft's concept video showed a virtual Russell Wilson bursting through the wall into a living room, giving fans a chance to quite literally measure themselves against the NFL star, says Nichols. 

The holographic view would also give fans a chance to walk around the “field” and view a play from any angle, zooming in and out using familiar pinch-to-zoom gestures. But the video also imagines that two buddies would each be viewing the game on the HoloLens—and who knows what that will cost.

HoloLens sounds like a fantastic way to view the game—but so was 3D TV, and we all know how that turned out. 


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