In a three-day span in September, Swedish syndicate Ericsson swiftly scored two deals with a pair of major sports broadcast networks on separate continents with its Piero technology.
BT Sport signed on for Piero’s cutting-edge augmented reality software system to enable overlay of 3D graphics and analysis in during their real-time, live studio productions, all in the name of engaging their sports-starved audiences a bit further. MLB Network signed a multi-year contract for Piero’s flagpole sports graphics software, which is designed to enhance and analyze sports for broadcasters and TV service providers.
Piero, used by over 50 broadcasters around the world, including by NBC for the Olympics this summer, joined the scene as a pivotal broadcast player earlier this year with the launch of their AR division. In addition to enhancing sports video media with visually engaging and informative illustrative effects, the new AR system opens the doors for broadcasters to monetize sports content to marketers by enabling the positioning of logos and ads during games.
AR is quickly becoming an integral part of living in a networked society in several sectors, and sports business companies seem to have found their sweet spot, as broadcasters are borrowing graphics ideas used heavily in video games. For Fox’s nationally televised matchup between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys in September, the television network brought AR to the NFL, too.
Piero’s software will be deployed across all of MLB Network’s extensive programming schedule, which should be music to the ears of every sabermetrician. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told [a]listdaily earlier this year that adopting modern technology is paramount to growing the game. “I think it’s crucial for the future of the game for the sport to cater to the millennial demographic,” Manfred said in an interview. “Baseball has always been generational. Appropriate use of technology is important to making sure the game gets passed on to the next generation.”
Vincent Noyer, head of Piero, broadcast and media services, Ericsson, joined [a]listdaily to discuss how their AR technology could serve to be a hallmark for the future.
Why are more broadcasters enhancing their programming with AR and 3D graphics? What is this doing for them, and for audiences? Aside from broadcasters, how can brands take advantage of the Piero software?
Visualizing sports data with graphics and 3D effects makes it more understandable, and therefore, more engaging for audiences. It helps broadcasters create sports programming which can be reused. It also supports presenters and helps them to build more exciting and unique storylines during highlights shows. It’s also great eye candy for a broadcaster looking for visual differentiators in a crowded market. Our Piero software uses image recognition and graphic overlays to enhance sports video media with visually engaging and informative illustrative effects. It enables broadcasters to overlay 3D graphics in real-time during live studio productions and sporting events. Sports analysis graphics can be produced instantly either by a system operator or by a presenter using a tablet device. The graphics are then added onto the studio floor in 3D allowing broadcasters to illustrate the analysis sequence without cutting away from the studio environment. The market-leading technology integrates easily with major studio camera tracking systems and popular sports data service providers. More broadly speaking, technologies like AR and VR will enable even more immersive viewing experiences. That said, it’s still reasonably in the early stages in terms of content availability, consumer adoption and device availability.
Compared to other major American sports leagues, why was MLB at the forefront of this partnership Ericsson?
Piero was originally developed in the UK, with a primary focus on soccer. Over the years, we have expanded Piero to include real-time 3D graphics and analysis for a number of sports, from handball to rugby and tennis to lacrosse. We’re progressively releasing features tried and tested in the soccer world to other sports. We already work with a number of sports broadcasters, leagues, clubs and coaches around the world. Baseball is a very stats-driven sport and was a logical next step for our data-visualization module.
How does AR drive audience retention and further increase engagement?
AR enables even more immersive viewing experiences which really captures viewers’ attention and drives loyalty. It allows the viewer to feel as if they are part of the experience; they can interact with the content, look at a game from different angles, understand it better and then share that experience with their friends. With AR, the viewer is not disconnected from reality—as they are with virtual reality. AR, when done well, can provide extra information relevant to the live event or live show. It can back up an analyst’s comments with easy-to-understand data and provide interactive tools to enhance the debate and bring a bit of fun to productions.
What kind of live TV programming does Piero software best work for?
Piero is used only for sports graphics, live in the studio, in the game and in post-production.
What’s the future of data visualization in AR looking like? What’s possible?
The future of data visualization is promising. We believe in relevant, meaningful, curated and synchronized data visualization with the live event. In terms of what’s next, we’re looking at ways to bring the experience directly to viewers’ living rooms through AR, again, adding even more value to traditional sports programming and driving deeper engagement.
How is Ericsson leveraging AR to further grow the company and be a leader in the space?
Innovation is key for us at Ericsson and this applies across our portfolio of TV and media products and services. We listen to our clients and always aim to provide them with robust, cutting edge tools to enhance their video productions. With regard to Piero, we have been at the forefront of TV sport analysis for several years and Piero AR is the next step in our innovation roadmap.
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