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Super Bowl LI to feature player POV replays – without attached cameras

Eager as ever to make the most of available technology to enhance its live sports coverage, Fox Sports will once again offer something a little different during its next major broadcast.

As part of its Fox Sports Lab tech initiative, the company is planning to give viewers point-of-view perspectives from players on the field during Super Bowl LI in February.

No, it doesn’t involve strapping GoPros to players’ helmets (they wouldn’t last five minutes), or even fitting tiny cameras inside. Instead, Fox has teamed up with Intel to create what it calls a “Be the Player” experience, a feature that displays POV footage from any player on the field without the need to attach a physical camera.

If that sounds pretty darn clever, that’s because it is. The system involves Intel’s 360 Replay technology, which uses a raft of cameras placed around the stadium, all facing the action. The gathered data allows the director to zoom into any part of the field for a player POV replay, giving the audience a clear perspective on exactly what they were seeing at any stage of the contest.

“We tasked Intel to push their amazing Intel 360 Replay technology to the limit of what it could do, using their array of cameras circling the stadium to synthesize a player’s view on the field,” Michael Davies, Fox Sports SVP of Field and Technical Operations, said in a release.

“The cameras, backed up by a huge bank of Intel computing power, allow a moment to be recreated in 3D space, so that a ‘virtual camera’ can be placed at the player’s eye line – not unlike how limitless camera views can be created in video games.”

Davies said the remarkable footage “literally brings the audience down to the viewpoint of the player at the critical decision-making moment. What other choices did he have? Was his sight blocked? It all looks much different from field level, and can assist our announcers in describing what actually happened on the field.”

Check out the video above for a preview of what to expect during the big game at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, on February 5.

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In other efforts to jazz up its content, Fox Sports Lab recently partnered with virtual reality firm LiveLike to offer viewers a VR experience during December’s Major League Soccer Cup. Offered via Fox Sports VR app, it marked the first time for the league’s championship game to be offered in VR.

The Lab also recently partnered with GoPro to fit referees with point-of-view cameras for the College Football Playoffs.

“It’s in our Fox Sports DNA to constantly challenge our team to come up with new and interesting ways to enhance the viewing experience, bring fans closer to the action, and make the story of sports even more compelling,” Davies said at the time.