NBA commissioner reveals tech plans

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Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA, has revealed plans to bring basketball fans closer to the action and increase their engagement in the sport, reports The Information Age.

The online news portal says Silver, speaking at a conference organized with IT company SAP, which powers a website that gives fans instant access to the NBA’s database of statistics, spoke of bringing the courtside experience to fans through the Oculus Rift; a head-mounted display being developed by Oculus, a virtual-reality tech company acquired by Facebook last year for US$2bn.

“It’s often said that one of the biggest tickets in all of sports is the courtside seat at an NBA game,’ he said. ‘[But] if you round it up statistically, 100% of our fans don’t go to games – they experience it through some form of media. So how can we replicate that courtside experience to fans at home?

“One way is through this Oculus virtual reality experience. I think that takes it to another level because you put on these large goggles – and I’m sure it won’t be long until they’re just [normal-sized glasses] – and then, in some ways, it may be better than the courtside experience because you’re not only courtside but you’re on the court, you’re above the court and you’re sitting on the basket – it’s absolutely mind-boggling.

“It’s truly immersive and it’s truly 360 to the point where the players are running right at you and jumping over you. Those are some of the ways we’re using technology.’

According to The Information Age, as well as experimenting with innovation that improves the experience for existing fans, the NBA is also considering technologies to attract new fans, including the development of multiple audio channels that provide different levels of expertise and information to help people better understand the sport.

“Right now, when you watch an NBA game, for the most part you only have one audio channel,’ he said. ‘By definition, the commentators have to talk to the average fan to create this universal experience. But it may be that the fans have different levels of interest – [some]may want to hear a group of former players discuss the game, while people new to the game may want a more elementary broadcast that explains the basic rules as they’re watching it.

“I think that creates a whole new opportunity where you can pick the audio – and maybe it’s user-generated so if you’re sitting at home, you can create your own audio channel.”

The Information Age concludes that while Silver conceded this could lead to content control issues, he enthused over the idea of an online platform that would ‘create the most entertaining experience’.

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