Technology has the power to transform our daily lives. In this three-part series in partnership with Intel®, we’ll bring you stories of the cutting-edge innovations that are doing just that—and the people working to make those innovations a reality. Read on for Part 1 and then check out Parts 2 and 3.
It’s the last five seconds of an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the San Francisco 49ers—and the Falcons need a last-gasp touchdown to steal the win. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan completes a pass to receiver Julio Jones, who is tackled right on the goal line. It takes an instant play review for the referee to call it a touchdown. But for fans at home using True View to watch the game highlights, there is no ambiguity—they can clearly see the play as if they were right on the field.
Intel® True View is Intel’s volumetric video technology for data capture, processing, and production. True View harnesses Intel’s computing prowess to create a fully three-dimensional model of any play, one that can be viewed not just from a few different camera angles but from any conceivable point of view. It’s a type of highlight reel never before created in sports—and is just the type of immersive media experience fans are craving.
“Watching sports hasn’t changed much in decades,” says James Carwana, Vice President and General Manager of Intel Sports. “Think of Sunday afternoon football and compare it to 30 years ago. The picture quality is better, but it’s the same viewing experience. Conversely, when you look at fans’ desires, they’ve really changed.”
That’s where True View comes in.
From the Player’s Point of View
Professional sports may sound like an odd fit for Intel, Carwana says, given the company’s legacy built on processors and other computing components. But in fact, Intel’s foundation in pushing the limits of computing power to process vast amounts of data is what positioned the company to have the ability to develop the True View platform. Thanks to these breakthrough technologies, people can dictate how they want to experience game content rather than solely watching a traditional television broadcast.
Where a typical video camera creates an image made of two-dimensional pixels, True View is powered by a volumetric video system that creates three-dimensional voxels. It does this by taking pixels placed in a space to add depth to the content in addition to height and width. Carwana says the user’s POV in True View can move to any point within the playing field. It’s a bit like navigating through the virtual space of a video game such as Madden, except the scene is real life.
“It is a level of immersion that you’ll never feel sitting on your couch and looking at the screen,” Carwana says. “You can move around and truly get a feel for the player’s decision making with these huge players just running around you.”
Unsurprisingly, this approach requires an enormous amount of data. Dozens of cameras positioned around a football stadium to record the action generate a significant amount of data per second, Carwana says. Multiple servers supply Intel’s cloud computing horsepower to turn that data deluge into high-definition volumetric replays of big moments.
“You’ve got to get the data, pre-process it, send it up to the cloud, and have the infrastructure to compute that volume of data coming in at that speed,” he says. “Advances in computing power and networking infrastructure made that solution possible.”
Choose Your Own Perspective
True View technology has been installed in home arenas of 20 NFL teams, several NBA teams, and top European soccer clubs including many La Liga clubs, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, and Paris Saint-Germain. Highlights of these games appear in True View on a variety of platforms including linear broadcast, digital, and social, offering unique perspectives on last-second touchdowns, dunks, and crucial goals.
“Fans have become their own producers,” Carwana says. “They value interactivity. They value real-time. These experiences are showing us how fans want to interact with sports content—they’re looking for the freedom to choose their perspectives.”
The Role of a Lifetime
Intel Sports is an organization that Carwana seemed destined to oversee. He spent seven years as an engineer at a company that created solutions for broadcasting television on mobile devices in developing countries before joining Intel in 2013.
“I wanted to get a broader set of experiences at a larger company and had an opportunity to join Intel as part of its accelerated leadership program,” he says. “It allowed me to rotate through the company for two years, taking on a variety of different roles. I learned a lot about the company [and] I learned a lot about myself during that time.”
Carwana believes True View will be as groundbreaking to sports as Pixar was to animated films. “The storyline of an animated film made in the ’80s versus today is very similar: love, conflict, triumph. But the method with which these stories are told after Pixar came in and created 3D tools are worlds apart,” he says. “We are doing something similar. We are creating a 3D model of the game and empowering leagues, teams, rights-holders, and fans to do magic with it.”