NBA Partners With Microsoft To Feature Virtual Courtside Fans
The 2019-2020 NBA season managed to return in one piece despite the threats of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the NBA opted for a bubble environment and a matching season restart in Orlando to protect its staff and players and ensure the future of the league. But how about satisfying basketball fans?
As more and more health experts reveal that the COVID-19 pandemic won’t end without a vaccine, it’s uncertain whether or not the NBA’s current environment will become successful or things would return to normal next season. For concerned NBA fans, this means new flexible arrangements for viewing and participation.
To bring service to millions of fans around the world, the NBA will utilize Microsoft Teams’ new Together Mode feature to help basketball fans feel the virtual courtside experience during live games. The feature uses AI to segment a person’s face and shoulders and place the virtual representation next to other people present in the courtside.
Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365, vouched for the quality and effectiveness of the Together Mode feature. Introducing the feature for the first time ever in the NBA, Spataro said:
“This new experience—the first to go live as a result of the NBA / Microsoft partnership — gives participating fans the feeling of sitting next to one another at a live game without leaving the comfort and safety of their homes…Players, meanwhile, will experience their energy and support as they dribble down the court and see fans’ real-time reaction. And viewers tuning into the game from home will feel the crowd’s energy as well as they see the virtual stands filled with fans.”
The NBA will use the feature combined with 17-foot tall LED screens that will wrap around basketball arenas at the Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The league and its partner organizers will unveil the setup soon.
Currently, the NBA’s bubble environment in Florida functions as expected. The league recently released a memo yesterday, stating that out of the 344 players set to compete for this season, no one tested positive. Other staff and members of the teams competing are also safe.
The NBA season resumes today, Thursday, with anticipated matches featuring New Orleans Pelicans, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers, and LA Clippers.