There have been plenty of amazing innovations in sport, and in sports broadcasting which most of us experience in high definition on our big-screen TVs or at the ground where big-screens along with stats and data in the palm of our hands make our knowledge of the game greater than ever. But for those who are visually impaired, the experience at the ground is limited to taking in the crowds cheers, and listening to audio commentary.
Now Telstra is trialling a new technology called “5G Touch and Track” which offers a tactile experience for those unable to see the on-field action.
The prototype technology uses Telstra’s 5G connectivity to send data to a physical tablet device which can be sat on your lap and allow users to feel the action on the tips of their fingers.
I think all of us appreciate the use of braille by running the fingers over each letter to “read” what’s on a page, and I think that’s the closest thing to what Touch and Track is, using fingertips to feel the outline of the ground in front of them, with a small magnetic ring on the tablet’s playing surface moving around to follow the ball as it’s in play.
This means while listening to the radio commentary, the tip of your finger will feel the ball move around the ground.
Different vibrations will indicate a mark, or pass or goal.
It’s fantastic stuff.
Telstra Sports Technology Lead, Chris Harrop said, “The number of people in Australia living with blindness or low vision is enough to fill Marvel Stadium more than six times. We want vision impaired fans to have access to the technology they need to bring a live AFL match to life, and we’re excited for the opportunities this project may bring. It’s all about the fans and we believe that 5G Touch and Track has real potential to revolutionise the live sports experience at Marvel and beyond.”
“Telstra and the AFL have been in business together for over 20 years and Telstra is now the technology and innovation partner for Marvel Stadium. We are currently piloting this technology at the stadium, and our ambition is to eventually offer the 5G Touch and Track to visually impaired fans at stadiums across the country.”
AFL Blind player and passionate Bulldogs supporter Shaun Keath said, “As a blind fan, live sound and commentary, no matter how detailed, doesn’t fully capture the intensity and excitement of a live game. It can also be incredibly isolating in a live sport environment when you’re amongst a crowd.”
Keath described his first use of the technology as remarkable.
“It’s something I thought would never be around in my time. It’s a game changer. It is going to make sport a lot more inclusive and accessible; it’s great for the community,” Mr Keath said.
It’s just a prototype, but it’s a great example of using technology to innovate for those most in need.