The National Basketball Association (NBA), an American men’s professional basketball league, in collaboration with Microsoft Teams is planning to bring more than 300 basketball fans live at courtside during games.
NBA, which is set resume its season on July 30th in Orlando, Florida, will use the new Together Mode in the video meet app that would project fans on screens in its arenas during games.
“Today, in partnership with the NBA, we are excited to announce a reimagined fan experience powered by a new feature in Microsoft Teams called Together mode,” Jared Spataro, VP, Microsoft 365 said in a statement.
“The core of our partnership with the NBA is delivering next-gen experiences for their fans on and off the court. All of us at Microsoft can’t wait to watch an NBA game again and are excited to be part of the new fan experience. We hope Together mode helps fans feel more connected and immersed in the game, and helps teams feel the energy of their fans, even when they can’t be in the arena.”
Together mode uses AI (artificial intelligence) segmentation technology to bring people together into a shared background like a conference room, coffee shop, or arena. Using scientific principles of cognition and social perception, Together mode is more than a virtual background—it makes being together virtually actually feel like being together in-person.
It’s easy to maintain natural eye contact, for instance, or register fellow participants’ emotions as they react to what’s happening—whether it’s a meeting announcement, a class presentation, or the sight of a favorite NBA player about to score a three-pointer.
Starting July 30, the NBA will outfit each game court with 17-foot-tall LED screens that wrap three sides of the arena. These “stands” will be populated with more than 300 cheering fans who will join the game using Together mode in Teams. Besides, a view of their fellow fans, participants can watch a live feed of the game right within Teams.
“We are excited to partner with Microsoft to virtually incorporate NBA fans into our season restart,” said Sara Zuckert, Head of Next Gen Telecast, NBA. “This unique live game experience will allow fans to maintain a sense of community as they watch their favorite teams and players.”
This new experience gives participating fans the feeling of sitting next to one another at a live game without leaving the comfort and safety of their homes, while players experience their energy and support in-venue.
In collaboration with broadcast partners ESPN and Turner Sports, more than 30 cameras, including many in robotic form, will be repositioned closer to the court and showcase never-before-seen camera angles in places that are otherwise not accessible with fans in the arena. Microphones around the court will capture enhanced sounds from the floor, including sneaker squeaks and ball bounces. DJs and announcers will be in-venue to help replicate the sounds and experiences teams are accustomed to in-arena.
Additionally, all viewers will have the ability to impact visual effects in the venue through a virtual cheering experience. Fans can digitally cheer for their team through the NBA App and NBA.com and on Twitter using team hashtags throughout the game. Virtual cheering will be reflected on the video boards in-venue with graphics and animations that capture the level of fan engagement around the world.
Fans will also have the opportunity to see their videos featured through TikTok Challenges. Snapchat’s “ground segmentation” augmented reality technology will also give fans an opportunity to explore a virtual rendering of the official court in Orlando via a Lens wherever they are.
NBA Digital, jointly managed by the NBA and Turner Sports, will provide customized viewing options on NBA League Pass and NBA TV via the NBA App and NBA.com. Fans will have access to alternate feeds with new camera angles, enhanced graphics, gaming options, in-language and influencers calling the game with a focus on areas such as analytics, fashion and music. Fans will also have access to live NBA Pick’Em: Trivia for every NBA game.
“Working with our broadcast and technology partners, we are excited to unveil a series of enhancements that will bring fans closer to the game and allow them to personalize their viewing experience,” said Sara. “Our goal is to create an enjoyable and immersive experience where fans can engage with each other and maintain a sense of community as we restart the season under these unique and challenging circumstances.”
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