English Football Goes for Immersion

The whole idea about a home theater — or a local cinema, for that matter — is to fill your field of vision and overwhelm your auditory system to produce a state of immersion: the sense that you’re really there. This is certainly not the only way to get to such a state; many of us can have a similar reaction from getting absorbed in a good book. Video gamers and flight sim enthusiasts understand the importance of immersion.

And now it appears that the English Premier League (EPL) gets it, too. The football league (though we call it soccer on this side of the pond) is working with Sony Electronics and Electronic Arts to develop a new viewing experience for its fans, according to an article on the Guardian.co.uk site. This makes a lot of sense, as Sony is one of the leading forces in 3DTV, from cameras through production right to the HDTV. Electronic Arts understands immersion from its years in the video game industry, and the success of their FIFA games. Their goal is to create a “you are there” experience, by putting you right in the middle of the crowd in your stadium of choice. It also may be possible to watch from unique locations, such as behind a corner flag or sitting on the players’ bench.

The systems under discussion would include panoramic views from multiple perspectives that would create an available “space” larger than the user’s field of view. This means that you could presumably “look around” from your location and get a 3D view in any direction. This could make the experience much more realistic. According to the EPL chief executive Richard Scudamore, the technology could be ready in just two to five years.

Clearly, such a system would need interactive connections between the viewer and the source content, which could deliver a 3D image in high definition in realtime, all of which translates to some massive bandwidth and computational resources, but it points in a direction that could be the future of all “video” entertainment. Sports has always been a major source of innovation, and it looks like that won’t end any time soon.