Touchdown for tech

Intel to equip NFL stadiums with Israel-made replay technology

Installed at 11 US pro football arenas, 3D video format will let fans feel like they’re right in the middle of the action

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

The Minnesota Vikings stadium that has been equipped with Intel's freeD technology developed by Israel's Replay Technologies (Courtesy: Intel)
The Minnesota Vikings stadium that has been equipped with Intel's freeD technology developed by Israel's Replay Technologies (Courtesy: Intel)

US chip giant Intel Corp. said Thursday it has outfitted eight National Football League stadiums in the US with high-definition cameras that will allow fans to see the game from every angle and create 360-degree highlights for a more action-packed experience.

The cameras — which are ready for the 2017 season — are equipped with Intel’s “freeD” technology that was developed by Israeli startup Replay Technologies, founded in 2011 and which Intel bought last year.

The eight stadiums that have been newly equipped with the technology are those of the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots and the Washington Redskins, Intel said in a statement.

These stadiums will join the home stadiums of the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers that have already installed the Intel technology.

The freeD system allows broadcasters to freeze video, rotate the angle of view and zoom in on the action. It has been used in other sporting events, including the NBA and Olympic Games.

For games at freeD technology-enabled stadiums, fans will be able to access and share the highlights via, the NFL Mobile app and the NFL YouTube channel, and across NFL team digital offerings, the statement said. Fans will also be able to view the enhanced replays in the stadiums itself, for closer views of the action on the field.

“By expanding freeD to more teams across the NFL, we’re empowering fans to see every side of the play and relive the excitement of game-changing moments,” said James Carwana, general manager of Intel Sports.

“During Super Bowl LI [at NRG Stadium in Houston in 2017], fans experienced a pivotal play from the quarterback’s point of view. Seeing key plays up close and from new perspectives is redefining what it means to watch the game.”

In addition to the 5K ultrahigh-definition cameras, each venue is equipped with servers that process up to 1 terabyte of data per 15- to 30-second clip. After capturing this data, the volumetric video is fed through miles of fiber-optic cables into a special control room, where the Intel production team virtually recreates the selected clip in 3D from an ideal vantage point or player’s perspective to take fans directly into the game from angles traditional cameras can’t reach, the statement said.

Replay’s freeD video format uses algorithms that are able to create 3D-pixels of the entire surface area of a scene to build the scene in real time, based on the 2D image, taking into consideration distance, lighting, exposure, objects in the image, and other criteria. The result is an image that effectively mimics a hologram, allowing it to be viewed in a single scene from any angle.

The Israeli startup began working with Intel in 2013. Terms of the sale to Intel were not disclosed, but reports in the Israeli media pegged it at $170 million.

In January, an ad by Intel starring New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, highlighted the video technology developed by Replay.

Intel’s acquisition of Replay is part of its strategy to be a player in the digital, more individual, fan-directed sports world, allowing fans to experience being right in the middle of the action.

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