Behind The Scenes

ESPN Arena: ‘Augmented reality’ gives UK soccer coverage extra kick

In the Encarta Dictionary, to “refresh” means “to update an electronic device, especially a visual display unit or replenish the supplies of something.”

That is exactly what ESPN Arena is doing for our football/soccer telecasts in the UK.

ESPN Arena, which the company believes to be a UK-first, uses the latest so-called augmented reality technology to enhance studio analysis with virtual players.

It is the latest example of ways in which ESPN is using technology to serve sports fans and create new kinds of content interaction with viewers.

ESPN Arena was first used before ESPN UK’s coverage of the Chelsea versus Everton Barclays Premier League match on Saturday, Oct. 15.

Used in the pre-game telecast, it allows commentators Kevin Keegan, Robbie Savage and Craig Burley to demonstrate tactics for how each team should approach the game by using players on a virtual football pitch to illustrate their points.

The experts can manipulate the players around the pitch, demonstrating strategies and formations, as well as being able to make the player a full size member of the studio — a virtual player complete with accompanying stats and information.

Origin of ESPN Arena
The concept of this new technology was in the works since the early part of 2011. With a strong internal push to use it, ESPN Arena was brought to life within a matter of weeks of its completion. After the project was completed, it needed a name. The senior producer inquired with employees, from all of the divisions in the London office, for assistance. “ESPN Arena,” was submitted by an employee in London’s new Chiswick Park offices and was selected as the name for the new tool. Although the program is currently used for football/soccer, it might be implemented into additional studio coverage in the UK.

Commentator Feedback
All of the commentators have enjoyed using ESPN Arena, and think the technology will help them during their analysis of the game. In fact, some of the ideas proposed by analyst Kevin Keegan, a legend in European football, will be used to further develop the product.

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