In a world where fresh, viral videos are king, fully-immersive experiences are just as good as live ones, and AI is part of our daily lives, even the content coming out of the sports world is changing. Audience members — even the ones sitting in the nosebleed seats — now have an even better chance to really be part of the game, with the help of an AI bodycam.
Israeli startup Mindfly is taking the live sports experience to the next level and giving fans the opportunity to watch, hear, and experience their next big soccer match or basketball game. These fans will be able to take in the game from a first-person point of view (FPV) as their favorite players don wearables that will provide them with immersive, live-action ready-to-publish clips, replays, and live streams as if they’re on the court or in the field, thanks to AI-powered cameras and a cloud platform.
The Tel Aviv-based company recently signed an agreement with EuroLeague, Europe’s top tier basketball league. The players will be fitted with Mindfly’s AI bodycams to give the fans an authentic FPV account of everything they do on the court. The videos will later be presented on EuroLeague’s social channels.
Mindfly called the agreement “sports broadcasting history,” in the announcement.
“This is the first time video footage from the point of view of professional athletes is being captured and automatically edited using AI technology,” says the company’s CEO Eran Tal, who also co-founded the company with current-CTO Yehuda Elmaliach. The company was founded in early 2021 and has offices in Tel Aviv and Barcelona.
Tal tells NoCamels that the company eventually plans to use its immersive technology in other areas such as music concerts and media and entertainment.
“Imagine that as a viewer you can be the singer, drummer or guitarist and switch between them in a click of a button. Imagine that you can do it on a recorded video and later on a live show,” he explains.
But for now, the team is sticking to reinventing the sports content for the digital age.
Up to three players will begin wearing the bodycams during matches during the season. EuroLeague will convert the FPV content generated by MindFly’s AI bodycam system into non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to be sold to EuroLeague fans.
MindFly recently signed a similar agreement with Bayern Munich Basketball club, where the club’s players will wear the bodycams during training sessions. The behind-the-scenes content will be used on its social platforms and later possibly sold as NFTs.
The technology has had pilots with other EuroLeague clubs since October 2021.
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“MindFly’s FPV solution will transport fans right into the court during matches and training sessions and deepen the relationships between fans, players, clubs and leagues”, says Alex Ferrer, EuroLeague’s senior director, marketing and communication.
“We’re proud to to offer such a stupendous innovation to our fans”, he added.
This “innovation” consists of an ultralight wearable, safe, and invisible bodycam designed for pro athletes and referrees. The wearable camera is embedded into a “GPS vest” which players say feels unnoticeable, says Tal. The camera captures a wide field of view and later on is cropped using AI editing algorithms to focus on the action.
The bodycam uses SteadiCam stabilization technology and AI auto-direction with multicam switching to emulate professional camera crews and directors without them actually being there, he explains. The video is also stabilized using special algorithms “as the players move abruptly,” according to Tal. The footage is uploaded in real time by AI editing software to the Mindfly Cloud, where it is then shared to viewers almost instantaneously.
“It felt like a regular undershirt or like a compression — not too tight, no too loose. Sometimes you just forget it’s there,” a player from the Bayern Munich Basketball club said in a recent video highlighting feedback from players who tried Mindfly’s wearable.
According to Mindfly, anyone on the field can be the creator and give fans the experience of being the star of the game. That means ballboys and linesmen as well as referees and umpires can also create a unique view of the action.
The system currently broadcasts selected video clips from key moments of games and training, but soon it will also broadcast full games in real-time. The solution can be adapted to devices like televisions, smartphones, tablets, and laptops, and all media channels such as social media, NFT, websites, and more.
“We want to change the way that viewers experience pro sports content feeling as if they are in the game,” Tal says. “We are currently in advanced negotiations to sign agreements with several clubs and top football leagues in Europe and with several major broadcasters. We will extend our partnerships globally in the coming year, focusing on clubs, leagues, and top broadcasters in Europe and the US,” he said in a statement.
Additional reporting by Max Kaplan-Zantopp