Today’s Tech Delivers a Whole New Ballgame

By John Saw, EVP of Advanced & Emerging TechnologiesSeptember 28, 2021

5G-powered smart glasses, holograms and Mixed Reality apps deliver an immersive new fan experience

The sports industry is always looking for new ways to engage fans and hold their attention — from bobbleheads that made their first appearance in 1960 to a riotous 10-cent beer night in 1974. But today, sports teams are going high-tech, using powerful 5G networks to transform spectator sports into interactive and immersive experiences.

Over the last decade sports leagues have made huge investments to capture all the data that inherently exists in a game. In baseball for example, the speed that a center fielder runs to catch a ball, the velocity a pitcher throws, the launch angle for each batter — all of these things have become important to fans. And broadcasters have been incorporating this data into the televised experience. But now with 5G, we can give fans at the stadium the same access to real-time stats, instant replays and a vast library of content that brings them closer to the action with more ways to enjoy the game.

T-Mobile Park, a 5G Showcase
Our hometown Major League Baseball (MLB) venue in Seattle, T-Mobile Park, is fully loaded with some of the most advanced 5G technologies in wireless. And this year, we have been exploring new ways to reinvent the fan experience. We kicked off the season with new 5G-powered AR experiences that virtually transport fans onto the field so they can throw a pitch or swing a bat — real-time motion tracking and AR computing captures their movement on-screen instantaneously. And this season we began testing a 5G Mixed Reality (XR) solution, creating a space where fans can just walk in, put on a pair of smart glasses and immediately be transported into an augmented reality baseball paradise.

Using Nreal smart glasses, baseball fans can view an enhanced AR scoreboard and get real-time MLB stat cast updates. Mariners’ outfielder Mitch Haniger makes an appearance via his hologram captured by Omnivor, a company that enables real time face-to-face volumetric video conversations. And a dancing Mariner Moose mascot also appears to celebrate big moments in the game. In addition to watching the live action on the field, fans can explore virtual baseball cards updated with real-time stats, or browse an extensive video library of Mariners’ game highlights. There’s even a virtual fireworks display every time the Mariners score a run. This full XR experience was built by Iconic Engine, a company doing incredible work developing the next generation of XR streaming applications. And all of this is powered by T-Mobile’s high-speed, low-latency Ultra Capacity 5G network.

This is just one more way we’re working to develop new 5G use cases for sports entertainment. At All-Star Week this year, we partnered with MLB to bring fans a first-person view of batting practice and the T-Mobile Home Run Derby using 5G-connected POV cameras mounted on player hats and masks. The cameras were the first to deliver live, synchronized HD video and audio over 5G, and they gave fans views of the action on the field from angles previously impossible to capture. We also used our first 5G drone built with the Drone Racing League to capture and stream on primetime TV stunning first-person view footage of the 8,000-seat ballpark and Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa. T-Mobile also enabled FOX Sports and LiveU to use a drone to broadcast live footage of the MLB at Field of Dreams game over our 5G network.

T-Mobile 5G, a Platform for XR Innovation
At T-Mobile we are building America’s leading 5G network, and independent reports confirm it is the largest and fastest 5G network. T-Mobile’s Extended Range 5G network covers 305 million people and our Ultra Capacity 5G network covers 165 million. With Ultra Capacity 5G, developers can tap into the low latency, high capacity and speed needed for bandwidth-intensive XR experiences.

This amazing 5G network is a platform for innovation that is giving sports franchises and developers new opportunities to reinvent the fan experience. To fuel this innovation and support startups and developers, we have a number of initiatives including the award-winning T-Mobile Accelerator5G Open Innovation Lab and T-Mobile Ventures investment fund. Omnivor, for example, is one of the first companies we began working with last year at the 5G Open Innovation Lab.

Stay tuned for more as we kick things into high gear with even more innovators, developers and entrepreneurs building the next big thing in 5G-powered sports entertainment. Game on! 

-- John 

5GNow is a content series from America’s leader in 5G. With 5GNow we share a first-hand look at the benefits of 5G today, and what’s coming next, highlighting the real-world ways 5G is improving our lives and keeping us better connected.