Avatar technology to let sofa fans into theatre of dreams
It is 2016 in Hong Kong and an ex-pat football fan picks up his headset, examines the console and decides which Premier League match he wants to watch live.
Not just that. He decides which match he actually wants to be at, or virtually be at -- will he 'travel' to Old Trafford or Anfield and feel as though he's sitting in the stand?
This could be the virtual-reality future of football? And the reason why there is no longer a need even to discuss the hot-potato concept of the "39th game."
Richard Scudamore, the Premier League's chief executive, likens what might be possible to the film 'Avatar', which used highly advanced visual techniques and 3D. The Premier League is already talking to Sony and EA about two different concepts as part of the advances being made.
"There's been a step change from standard definition to high definition in terms of how people consume football," Scudamore said. "3D is coming along and there will soon be a technological development that will allow people across the world to have a much richer experience of watching football.
"Our efforts and energies are focused in that area, rather than the passe idea of flying around the world playing a 39th game. We'll find a technological solution."
The 39th game -- a Premier League team playing an 'extra' league match at various locations around the world -- caused such an uproar that Scudamore has vowed it will never resurface as an idea "on my watch."
Instead he has different ideas.
"There's 'immersion technology' being developed where you can sit down with headphones and a screen, and reproduce the feel of being in a stadium," he said.
"You can call in your mates to sit next to you and chat to them. If you turn your head one way you're looking at the left-hand goal and the other way you're looking at the right-hand goal. That's in testing.
"You could be on a Saturday evening in Hong Kong, 3pm in England, deciding whether you want to be on the Kop or the Holte End at Aston Villa. You'll be able to choose where you want to be and watch the game.
"I think it's only about five years from being readily available. It'll certainly happen within my working life. It'll be like an 'Avatar' type of thing available in your own home. It's the sort of thing our kids are playing with all the time. It might seem a bit 'blue sky', but it isn't.
"I see that vision and I can see it happening. We've been speaking to a couple of companies about working with them on developing the product."
Sony is already developing something called 'Super Wide', which is a panoramic shot based on several cameras which are then 'stitched' together, with viewers deciding where they want to be in that view. They can decide whether they want to be close to one corner flag, the halfway line or the other end of the stadium.
EA is working on something more immediate, that can then be developed further -- a 3D holographic representation of various phases of play during a game for viewers to access. They will get a 3D 'play-book' including different pieces of analysis which might be available for 2012-13.
The possibilities are endless -- there could be cafes or bars creating a virtual-reality stadium with tickets being sold to use the technology for those who do not subscribe. (© Daily Telegraph, London)