Magic Leap, the mysterious tech company that spent years developing augmented reality goggles in complete secrecy, has finally shed light on one of the intended uses for its headset. At an event yesterday, CEO Rony Abovitz and NBA commissioner Adam Silver revealed that the two companies are teaming up to bring NBA content to Magic Leap, via virtual screens in the headset.
The announcement was interesting because neither party sees this as just another way for you to watch content. Instead, Magic Leap and the NBA are rethinking how live sports are filmed in an area, and they’re presenting a blueprint for the way we watch sports to change completely.
In an interview with The Verge, Abovitz described a new system for recording and broadcasting sports, one that’s very different to the multi-camera method used today:
Abovitz said that in order for it to work, it would require multiple fixed camera sensors to be placed around a venue. He also said that instead of using “30 big TV cameras shooting from different angles,” broadcasters would instead use a larger number of much smaller, super high-resolution cameras that would send all the data to a backend computing stack.
“[It will] move from standard 2D television broadcasting to full volumetric capture. That’s probably going to take a decade before you see it happening across multiple sports and news, but you’ll see early adopters,” he said.
What Abovitz is talking about is a kind of recording that’s in its infancy right now. During special sporting events, like the Super Bowl or the current Winter Olympics, broadcasters have started using a system that stitches together images from multiple cameras to make a “bullet-time” effect, keeping the subject fixed and spinning a virtual camera angle around a stationary person. Petapixel has a write-up of how early systems work here.
Magic Leap’s proposal is a big step forwards because of two things: Firstly, it has the sports league on board, which is the key to actually getting this tech into stadiums; Secondly, it’s the first truly innovative use of AR or VR in sports that we’ve seen to date. AR and VR companies have struggled with getting anything more interesting than 360-degree video into headsets, but a 360-degree camera that you could move and control yourself might actually get people to watch sports with a headset strapped to their face.