Innovating for a New Atmosphere

By Vivek Raghavan, Trainee Patent Attorney

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many sporting events scheduled for this year have had to be cancelled or postponed. Some competitions, such as the Premier League, were paused as several countries went into lockdown. Now, as lockdown restrictions have begun to be eased, these competitions have been given the green light to restart.

However, a crucial safety condition of this resumption is that these sporting events will have to take place without fans being present. Spectators are vital to creating an atmosphere at sporting events and without them, these games or matches could seem odd to viewers watching on television. Some ideas have been proposed to improve the virtual experience. When the Premier League resumes, television viewers will have the option of switching on artificial crowd noise over the television broadcast to compensate for the lack of fans in the stadium, and we have seen an example of this being used in the German Bundesliga. Danish football team AGF Aarhus are using a “virtual grandstand”, in which digital screens are set up in the stands for fans to attend the match via Zoom. This lets the players see the fans supporting them at home.

What other ideas and innovations could be used to improve the experience for the fan watching on TV? Perhaps the world of patents has some answers…

The invention of KR20120009866 allows real-time in-game information to be shared to the mobile devices of users who are outside the stadium. This could include live video or other information which is not picked up by the normal television broadcast.

Fans could remotely cheer their team on using the invention of JP2001325350. This invention allows fans at home to send messages of support into the stadium, which can be displayed on the big screen.

Many fans like to analyse and make predictions on the match or game as they are watching. US2017223415 provides a system for allowing a viewer to analyse the flow of a match and predict the outcome of the match in real-time. This could allow fans at home to feel more involved in the match as they watch on TV.

US2013222597 describes a system for encouraging viewers to engage with a live sporting event. Viewers can select one or more athletes who are participating in the sporting event to play in a virtual game alongside the event. The viewers are awarded points in the game based on the athlete’s performance in the live sporting event. This could allow fans to compete with each other and add an extra dimension to their viewing experience.

Hopefully in the near future, it will be sufficiently safe again for fans to attend live sporting events. When this is the case, the fan viewing experience could be enhanced by using Augmented Reality. Augmented Reality (AR) is the overlaying of digital interactive content and information into a real-world environment. Some patent applications incorporate the use of AR into a sports environment. KR20120046418 describes creating a virtual image for a spectator including information relating to the teams, players, records and stadium. Similarly, KR20190001453 describes a system that in which spectators point their mobile phone camera at different places in the stadium, which generates an AR overlay containing useful information; for example, about the current weather or player statistics.

Let’s hope that soon it will be safe to attend sporting events in person – until then, it will be interesting to see what new innovations arise for the ‘remote’ sports fan!