Technology is changing the way we watch and follow sports in all kinds of ways, from being able to stream games to any device over the Web to advanced fitness tracking software utilized by players and coaches. This Sunday we’ll see a new innovation arrive, with the introduction of a live player tracking system from ESPN during its coverage of the MLS Cup 2014.
The system allows a select number of graphics to be overlaid on top of the live feed — these graphics can highlight key players in possession or making runs, show the shape of a defensive line, and so on. According to ESPN, the technology is going to give viewers a better understanding of the match, assuming the computer-generated visuals don’t block too much of the action.
“During MLS Cup 2014, ESPN will debut a graphic telestration system that tracks the movement of players in real-time,” says ESPN. “The visual graphic, created by ChryonHego, is displayed on-screen, either during live play or in a replay, spotlighting key players and enabling viewers a better grasp of the strategy and in-game spatial movements used by the teams.”
In a video released by ESPN showing how the system would work, team movements and relative positions were highlighted, with labels appearing above key players as soon as they were in possession of the ball (you can see a screen grab of the video in the image above). “Soccer is mostly a free-flowing game, but there is purpose behind each movement. The virtual player-tracking graphics allows us to offer viewers richer context to the nuances behind the on-the-field tactics,” Jed Drake, ESPN’s senior vice president of product innovation, told Engadget.
Sunday’s game kicks off at 3pm ET at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles, with the Los Angeles Galaxy taking on the New England Revolution. As well as showcasing some state-of-the-art broadcast technology, the match is notable for being the final one for iconic star Landon Donovan — the man who’s scored more goals than anyone else in Major League Soccer is going to be hanging up his boots after the game finishes.