The coverage of 5G mobile network is increasing in many countries, enabling the delivery of truly immersive experiences to sports viewers. In the UK, funding by the national government has fostered a novel ecosystem in the domain of extended reality (XR) called “5G Edge-XR”.
A prototype by one of the ecosystem’s partners, Manchester-based Salsa-Sound, demonstrates how 360 video and spatial audio can combine to offer new levels of immersion for football fans watching on devices from their homes. Sounds and images at the venue are captured by numerous cameras and microphones, making it possible for fans to choose the exact in-venue position to experience a match. An algorithm developed by SalsaSound processes the sound in a way that is customized to the viewer’s chosen visual perspective. Moreover, most of the computationally demanding tasks are not performed by the devices of end-users, but in processing units distributed across the 5G network, thereby lowering the requirements for users’ equipment.
The technical advances of XR-technologies feed into widely proclaimed visions of a “metaverse”, where elements of the physical and virtual world blend. However, providing users with affordable and convenient applications remains a challenge. It is unclear when a market-ready product will emerge from SalsaSound’s prototype. Also, without a XR headset, fully reaping the benefits of the viewing platform will not be possible. Nevertheless, accessible, advanced audio technology represents a critical piece to the puzzle of technically upgrading sports broadcasting.
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